Mercedes-Benz announced it has achieved Level 3 autonomy certification for its vehicles in the U.S., a step higher than the company’s own Tesla.
“It is a very proud moment for all of us to continue this leadership and celebrate this monumental achievement as the first automotive company to be certified for Level 3 conditional automated driving in the U.S. market,” said CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, Dimitris Psillakis, in a statement.
What does this achievement entail?
The autonomy levels indicate how far the user can detach from the car so that it can drive itself on highways.
Level 3 is still a far cry from the kind of robust autonomous driving feature that appears in science fiction, and in many ways is still very similar to the Level 2 systems currently in use on the road. It can keep the car in the lane, adjust speed according to the vehicle ahead, and even make lane changes.
But there is one notable exception: drivers don’t have to strictly keep their eyes on the road at all times, which could free them up to read articles or play video games on the infotainment screen.
Tesla is currently at Level 2 with its Autopilot assistance software.
Companies as Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Volskwagen and Ford are competing in a market where autonomous driving is trying to assert itself.
Waymo and Cruise have argued that jumping to Level 4 technology, systems that could allow a driver to take a nap, from Level 2 makes much more sense, as the handoff between humans and their software-based assistants can be imperfect or even prove fatal.
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