Mercedes is confident it can roll out Level 3 autonomy before the BMW iNext arrives in 2021.
We already know Mercedes is working on the next S-Class, and now Ola Kaellenius, Daimler's head of research, has confirmed the new flagship will arrive in 2020 with hands-free Level 3 autonomous technology. According to Automotive News, the technology will initially be introduced in the new S-Class before being rolled out into lower segment cars.
"We are on the verge of jumping to Level 3, which is our target for the next S class," Kaellenius said. "That is something that you can then buy as an option, and you can proliferate it relatively quickly into higher volumes - especially with a brand like Mercedes."
Technically, Mercedes won’t be the first manufacturer to offer Level 3 autonomy – that accolade belongs to Audi, which debuted the technology in the new A8. However, Mercedes is confident it can beat BMW since the production iNext, BMW’s upcoming electric SUV that will also feature Level 3 self-driving technology, won’t go on sale until 2021. "The next S-Class is due for 2020, so the timeframe should be realistic," he said.
Currently, systems offered by other automakers such as Tesla, Cadillac and Mercedes are advanced versions of Level 2 assistance systems, which means drivers cannot take their eyes off the road and must be prepared at all times to take back control. Level 3 systems, on the other hand, offer “conditional automation” which means the driver is “not required to monitor the [driving] environment,” but “must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times with notice,” according to the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Little else is known about the new S-Class, but spy shots have shown it will have an evolutionary design and a new interior with a massive digital display. Mercedes has previously said the new flagship will have significantly more touch technology and a new dashboard layout replicating the Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept.