Mercedes-Benz gets approval for conditionally automated driving test license in Beijing

Mercedes-Benz is one of the first OEMs to obtain approval for the conditionally automated driving road test license in Beijing. In China, the luxury carmaker integrates its global R&D experience with a local R&D team, adapting to local regulations to deliver tailored products for Chinese customers.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 19 Dec 2023 Views icon2274 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Mercedes-Benz gets approval for conditionally automated driving test license in Beijing

On December 16, Mercedes-Benz became one of the first automakers to receive approval for the conditionally automated driving (Level 3) highway road test license in Beijing.

The German luxury car maker will begin conditionally automated driving system testing on designated highways in Beijing while always adhering to its ‘safety first’ principle.

Mercedes-Benz has consistently been a pioneer in automated driving. It started in 1986 with adaptive cruise control testing. Today, it is the only car manufacturer in the world with the world's first internationally valid system approval for conditionally automated driving and a SAE Level 4 driverless parking system in place. In China, Mercedes-Benz has been conducting proving ground tests of Level 3 systems for years.

"Mercedes-Benz as the leader in automated driving technology is dedicated to providing the best customer experience - worldwide. After bringing our DRIVE PILOT to Germany and the U.S., the testing license in Beijing is the next important milestone to get conditionally automated driving ready for Chinese roads. We will incorporate all our global expertise to support the local R&D team for a safe and reliable system design,” said Markus Schafer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Chief Technology Officer, Development & Procurement

The Mercedes-Benz Level 3 automated driving system

The Level 3 system DRIVE PILOT builds on the sensor technology of the Driving Assistance Package and includes additional sensors that Mercedes-Benz considers essential for safe conditionally automated driving. These include a LiDAR sensor, an advanced stereo camera in the front window, a multi-purpose camera in the rear window and microphones, especially for detecting blue lights and other special signals from emergency vehicles, as well as a moisture sensor in the front wheelhouse. In addition, the S-Class and EQS with DRIVE PILOT option has redundant steering and braking systems as well as a redundant on-board electrical system to remain manoeuvrable even if one of these systems fails and to ensure a safe handover to the driver.

During conditionally automated driving, the activated DRIVE PILOT allows the driver to take their mind off the traffic and focus on certain secondary activities, be it communicating with others via In-Car Office, browsing the web or relaxing while watching a movie. Mercedes‑Benz introduced DRIVE PILOT in Germany as an optional conditionally automated driving system in the S-Class and the all-electric EQS sedan in 2022.

In the U.S., the production-ready version of DRIVE PILOT has already made its on-road debut in California and Nevada with a limited fleet of Level 3 equipped EQS Sedans. Customer deliveries of DRIVE PILOT equipped MY2024 EQS Sedan and S-Class models will be available in early 2024 through participating authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers in California and Nevada.

As far as system design is concerned, Mercedes-Benz is taking a step-by-step approach focused on safety. By the end of this decade, the manufacturer wants to expand the availability on the freeway to up to 130kph. In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz wants to offer intermediate steps. For Germany, the next move will be a system which can do 90kph when following a vehicle upfront on the German highway. 

In China, the luxury carmaker integrates its global R&D experience with a local R&D team, adapting to local regulations to deliver tailored products for Chinese customers.

Tailoring the vehicles to the Chinese market

In China, Mercedes-Benz integrates its global R&D experience with a local R&D team with strong capabilities, and through cooperating with local partners and adapting to local regulations to deliver tailored products for Chinese customers. For the development and approval of the conditionally automated driving system, engineers, lawyers, compliance managers, data protection experts and ethics experts worked together as an interdisciplinary team.

To make the Level 3 automated driving system more adaptable to China's infrastructure and traffic conditions, the local R&D team has been deeply involved from the early stages of relevant global development. Since 2021, Mercedes-Benz has undertaken proving ground testing and validation in China to continuously enhance Level 3 system performance. The focus of local R&D efforts includes adapting the system to China's unique road signs, markings, construction zones, special lanes such as bus lanes and tidal lanes, and continually optimising logic, algorithms and parameters for scenarios like vehicle cutting-in.

Starting in 2005 with the first locally-produced E-Class model, Mercedes-Benz has continuously expanded its R&D capabilities in China to meet customer needs. Over the past 18 years, China's R&D network has developed into the most comprehensive R&D network outside of Germany. In recent years, Mercedes-Benz established new R&D centres in Beijing and Shanghai in 2021 and 2022 respectively while expanding its extensive collaboration with local partners. This includes over a decade of longstanding joint research with Tsinghua University in sustainable mobility.

Mercedes-Benz also continues to attract local talent and expand its local R&D team. By the end of 2023, its China R&D team is expected to grow to 2,000 people.

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