Mercedes‘ head of research and development has revealed some new details about the company’s plan for autonomous driving technology.
Speaking to Motor Authority, Ola Källenius said the 2018 S-Class offers Level 2 autonomy but “if we would take the inhibitors out, then it could do Level 3 in many, many, many driving situations.”
The executive admitted the company is already developing a true Level 3 system but noted the regulatory environment for these vehicles is still in flux so they’re working with authorities to create a “homogeneous set of requirements.”
This could take awhile but Källenius said higher levels of autonomy will require more sensors as well as redundant braking and steering systems. On the sensor side, the R&D boss said “The sensing technologies of the future is a blend of cameras, lidars, and radars. Those three layers of sensing basically replace the eyes and the ears of the human being.”
Interestingly, Källenius downplayed Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy as he explained the company is currently developing this technology for the taxi market. As he explained, these systems are “phenomenally expensive” and will likely cost “tens of thousands of dollars once you get it into production.”
He says this doesn’t leave the company with much of a business case outside of a “robot taxi scenario.” In this case, the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost to hire a human driver would offset the cost of the technology.
When the systems become more common in the future, Källenius believes Mercedes could achieve economies of scale where the cost of fully-autonomous driving technology could be low enough that it might make sense to offer it on consumer-oriented models.