While the autonomous driving development work continues, several legal questions are arising in parallel: if something happens with active autonomous driving, who is responsible, the car manufacturer or the driver? Some time ago we saw how a bad story involved a Tesla Model S with active Autopilot: the car had passed a red light hitting a Honda Civic, whose two occupants who had lost their lives (kills two people with Tesla Autopilot active). The Tesla driver was unharmed, only that he was accused of being the real responsible for the accident, the prosecutors did not want to hear reasons and did not feel like blame Tesla and his assisted driving system.
Furthermore, we remind you that Autopilot is a Level 2 system, it is possible that it makes mistakes and for this reason every driver is called to keep his hands on the steering wheel and be vigilant about what happens, since at the first sign of error he must be in able to take control and avoid the worst – which in this story Made in USA it didn’t happen. On the question of “autonomous driving and responsibility” his Mercedes-Benz has now said, with a decision that we could define as historic.
Mercedes-Benz and the responsibility of its own technology
Mercedes-Benz will no longer place the responsibility on drivers when its autonomous driving is active: with Drive Pilot grafted, Mercedes-Benz will take responsibility of any problems in the street.
Not a small show of strength, with Mercedes-Benz being so sure of the goodness of its system that it legally covers it for any defect or problem. But what does it have Drive Pilot again? Compared to other “autopilots” on the market, it is very advanced, it is indeed certified to be a Level 3 (how autonomous driving changes from level 1 to 5). With Level 3 autonomous driving we are somewhat allowed to distract ourselves, as the car is sufficiently capable of driving on its own, so theoretically we could read books or watch videos, although at the moment it is very limited technology. Level 3 Autonomous Driving is already legal in France and GermanyAlthough it can only be used on certain highways at a reduced speed, we are therefore in an experimental phase. Even in Italy we will be able to use Level 3 starting from July 2022, with just as many limitations. Since we talk about Mercedes-Benz (which has already shown as its EQS can park on its own without a driver), let’s see what the law in Germany provides.
Towards Level 5 Autonomous Driving
In Germany, Level 3 can only be used along certain motorways selected with cruising speed which must not exceed 65 km / hso at the moment it is quite difficult to use this level of autonomous driving, if not downright dangerous – given the usual speeds of motorways.
However, things will certainly evolve over time and even the use of Level 3 will be unlocked and authorized on public roads. What makes history is Mercedes-Benz’s decision to take full responsibility with active Drive Pilot. Once the system is engaged by the driver, the driver will no longer be responsible for what happens. If the car causes an accident or, hopefully it never happens, hits someone, Mercedes-Benz will be liable for any civil and criminal damages. This way the user will be done allowed to be distracted while drivingas Level 3 foresees, he will be able to watch a movie on the car’s central screen, he will be able to control his smartphone, he will still be 100% responsible for what happens with Drive Pilot active.
Of course there could be a major quibble: Mercedes-Benz takes responsibility “until Drive Pilot is switched off”. Is it meant manually by the driver or also automatically? Like so many other systems, it is likely that too Drive Pilot disconnects itself independently if it is not able to correctly evaluate what to do, so if an accident occurs a few moments later, whose responsibility is it?
Authorities, insurance companies and governments will have something to discuss soon, it will be necessary to clarify what can really be done with Level 3 and how to interpret the choice of Mercedes-Benz – which will probably have to face different rules in each country or state, if we think of the United States. where for now only California and Nevada seem to be open to level 3 autonomous driving. Of course going towards Level 5, with cars that may not even have steering, it is likely that you will go towards the full responsibility of the producersthe road to truth is still very long and bumpy …