The Challenges of Level 3 Automated Driving

A groundbreaking advancement in automated driving, expected to be deployed on public roads this year, is anticipated to encounter a myriad of legal complexities and other obstacles.

Mercedes-Benz is preparing to introduce vehicles equipped with Drive Pilot, an innovative Level 3 automated system that is the first of its kind in the market. This system allows the car to assume control and responsibility in specific situations, but the human driver is required to take over when prompted by the system.

According to Mercedes, when engaged, Drive Pilot enables drivers to divert their attention from traffic.

Years ago, Volvo and Audi attempted to introduce similar systems but ultimately abandoned them due to the complex legal, regulatory, and safety challenges associated with Level 3 driving.

Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aptly described Level 3 systems as “an engineer’s dream and a plaintiff attorney’s next yacht.” As the leader of the Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium, his work focuses on studying how drivers interact with automated systems.

While Level 3 automation theoretically allows motorists to engage in activities like reading a book, watching Netflix, or texting friends, Mercedes-Benz has chosen not to specify whether these activities would be permitted while Drive Pilot is engaged.

The lack of clarity regarding what actions a motorist can or cannot perform is just one consequence of a more intricate issue: determining the responsibility for a vehicle’s operations, whether it lies with the driver or the automated system.