The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the company's long-time flagship model, and the next iteration due out will carry some seriously advanced driver aids... hopefully. Based on the experiences of its competitor, that tech might not make its way to the US at the same time.
The next-generation S-Class, which is reportedly due in 2020, should carry hardware and software that will enable SAE Level 3 partially automated driving, Automotive News Europe reports, citing an interview with Ola Källenius, Daimler's head of research and .
Källenius suggested to Automotive News Europe that Mercedes-Benz should be able to beat a similar system from BMW to market, because the new S-Class is due in 2020, whereas BMW's system isn't slated to arrive until 2021, attached to a production version of the .
Level 3 partial automation lives in kind of a weird spot. The current slate of advanced driver-assist systems, like Cadillac's Super Cruise and Tesla's Autopilot, are Level 2, in that they require the human to maintain visual vigilance at all times and can be reasonably expected to retake control at a moment's notice.
Level 3, on the other hand, is a type of conditional automation that can assume complete control of a vehicle, including monitoring the environment, but it still requires a human to operate as a fallback. Level 4 and 5 remove the human fallback from the equation.
However, even though the 2020 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will come to the US, there's a chance that its Level 3 system will not. Audi beat Mercedes to the punch with its new Traffic Jam Pilot system, a Level 3 system that debuted on the 2019 Audi A8 sedan. However, it won't come to the US straight away -- as the underlying reason. Instead, the US will get a system closer to Super Cruise or Autopilot.
So will Mercedes-Benz end up making the same decision? The automaker did not immediately return a request for comment, and automakers routinely refuse to discuss future products that haven't been unveiled. Källenius didn't mention the US market specifically when talking to Automotive News Europe, so it's unclear if Mercedes-Benz has market-specific concerns about its upcoming system.
Regulations can change over the course of years, though, and perhaps the same problems plaguing Traffic Jam Pilot's US release won't exist by the time the new S-Class comes to market. Regulations are also responsible for the lack ofin the US, but the cars can be upgraded to wield that functionality with a simple software update -- provided Washington turns its focus to adapting vehicle regulations for the 21st century.
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