As autonomous vehicle (AV) technology advances, the question of who is responsible – the vehicle owner or the OEM – in the event of an accident has remained largely unanswered, except implicit from Volvo, and now from Mercedes-Benz.
Road & Track recently announced that the German equipment manufacturer will be held responsible for any malfunction of its SAE level 3 conditional automated driving function, Drive Pilot.
“Once you engage Drive Pilot, you are no longer legally responsible for the operation of the car until it disengages,” Road & Track wrote. “You can look away, watch a movie or hang out. If the car breaks down while Drive Pilot is running, that’s Mercedes’ problem, not yours.
Mercedes did not return a request by Repairer Driven News’ deadline to confirm whether or not the OEM will be held liable.
Mercedes however states in a report on its website: “Behaviours that would prevent the user from being ready to resume driving in a timely manner, such as sleeping, are prohibited and, when detected, will cause the system to issue a series of increasing warnings. If these warnings are ignored, DRIVE PILOT will automatically bring the vehicle to a controlled stop while turning on the hazard warning lights. If the driver still does not respond, DRIVE PILOT will stop the vehicle from rolling, request assistance making an emergency call to our response center and will prepare the vehicle for emergency assistance by unlocking the doors.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International defines Level 3 automated driving as the person sitting in the driver’s seat who does not have control of the vehicle when the automated driving feature is activated. However, the “driver” must be ready to take over at any time when a Level 3 system is activated.
Before the feature is offered as an option to the driver, Drive Pilot assesses system status, route clearance and environmental conditions to determine the availability of the feature, according to Mercedes. It is available as an option on S-Class models in Germany.
Chief Technology Officer Markus Schäfer said in a statement that Drive Pilot will be offered in the United States by the end of the year “if the legal and regulatory framework allows it”.
Gregor Kugelmann, senior director of development for Drive Pilot, told Road & Track that at the end of 2021 Mercedes was the first OEM to receive international Tier 3 certification.
“We’re aiming to get that for California and Nevada by the end of this year, and we’re checking many other states as well,” he said.
Every vehicle with autonomous technology currently on sale in the United States has an SAE Level 2 system, including General Motors’ Super Cruise, Ford’s BlueCruise and Ford’s “misleadingly named” Full Self-Driving. Tesla, according to Kelley Blue Book. “They relieve some of the workload of driving in specific circumstances. But they require the full attention of the driver. The companies assume no legal liability from the driver for the actions of the car,” KBB wrote.
Mercedes touts the Level 3 Audio Visual System as “designed to operate the vehicle under certain conditions on fully controlled access highways, such as Interstate freeways. Under these conditions, the driver can engage DRIVE PILOT to operate the vehicle and then relax and concentrate on the non-driving tasks provided by the vehicle’s multimedia system.When it’s time to pull off the highway, or if an unusual situation develops, such as approaching a scene accident or the appearance of a malfunction, DRIVE PILOT will warn the user to resume driving, while maintaining control of the vehicle until the user is able to do so.
Drive Pilot uses lidar, a camera in the rear window, microphones and a humidity sensor in the wheel arch to assess its surroundings and the weather conditions. In the event of a system failure, Mercedes installs redundant steering and braking systems and an on-board electrical system with Drive Pilot so that the vehicle “remains maneuverable even if one of these systems fails and allows safe handover. to the driver”.
KBB questions whether Mercedes can, in fact, assume full legal liability at the federal level in the United States, since “federal laws control certain liability issues for software makers, and a patchwork of state laws control the liability for traffic accidents”.
“I would expect that here in the United States some other states will adopt the rules that will be applied by pioneer states like California and Nevada,” said George Massing, vice president of automated driving at Mercedes. , at Road & Track. “And then they would have maybe two or three specific rules included in their region. But we’ll probably have to deal with each state individually because of how you’re organized as a country.
Featured image credit: Mercedes-Benz
When Drive Pilot is activated, the steering wheel controls illuminate turquoise. (Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)
“The DRIVE PILOT sensors” (Supplied by Mercedes-Benz)