Tesla typically catches flak among critics because its Autopilot system and FSD Beta are still classified as SAE Level 2 driver-assist systems. This means that while the vehicles are able to handle most driving tasks, drivers must have their hands at the steering wheel so they could take over the vehicle’s controls at any time.
Unfortunately for Tesla, other automakers are now rolling out features classified as SAE Level 3 systems, which allow hands-free operations. This gave the impression that Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD Beta are lagging behind legacy auto’s driver-assist systems. Such a narrative was certainly brought forward following the release of the Honda Legend’s SAE Level 3 suite earlier this year, which allowed for hands-free driving in congested traffic when the vehicle is traveling less than 31 mph on an expressway.
The Mercedes-Benz EQS’ DrivePilot system is quite similar to the Honda Legend’s in the way that it is classified as an SAE Level 3 system. A recent video of the system in action was shared online, and it depicted how DrivePilot responds to a series of situations that drivers may encounter on the road. It should be noted that Mercedes-Benz’s DrivePilot demonstration was performed in a closed track with pre-prepared simulations.
The video of DrivePilot’s capabilities showed a conservative SAE Level 3 system that would likely be useful in optimum scenarios. In Mercedes-Benz’s demo, it was highlighted that DrivePilot uses a variety of sensors, but it would only be usable on highways that are pre-mapped in the daytime, and during dry conditions. When it’s snowing, or raining, or if it’s nighttime, DrivePilot would not be able to operate.
This is where Tesla’s approach to full self-driving differs. The company currently uses a pure vision approach to develop its self-driving software, and so far, it seems to be working well. FSD Beta is already capable of traversing inner-city streets even under rainy or foggy conditions, and even basic Autopilot could be used at night. Granted, Tesla still requires drivers to have a hand ready at the wheel just in case manual interventions are needed, but such an inconvenience seems well worth the additional features of Autopilot and FSD Beta.
Time will tell if Tesla’s self-driving strategy would prove to be the real path to autonomous driving. But for now, at least, it appears that Tesla’s SAE Level 2 systems are already more capable than competing solutions that are classified as SAE Level 3. Whether this will remain the case in the coming years is yet to be seen.
Watch Mercedes-Benz’s DrivePilot system and Tesla’s FSD Beta in the video below.
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