Credits By: Pro Pakistani
As the automotive industry progresses towards autonomous driving, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) continue to evolve, even though some drivers view features like lane-keeping assistance (LKA) as inconvenient. Mercedes is at the forefront of this journey, introducing an innovative automated overtaking function for its new E-Class model in Europe, building on its existing capabilities in North America on the C-Class, E-Class, S-Class, and EQ series. This adaptation aims to tailor the feature to suit European traffic conditions.
Mercedes’ cutting-edge Automatic Lane Change (ALC) system is a component of the “Active Distance Assist Distronic with Active Steering Assist.” This system comes into play when the vehicle’s speed falls between 47.3 and 87 mph (80-140 kph) and identifies a slower-moving vehicle ahead. Utilizing lane markings and “structurally separated directional lanes,” such as dual carriageways, the ALC can automatically initiate a lane change, including overtaking maneuvers, provided the lane markings are clear and sufficient space exists.
To access this feature, the vehicle must be equipped with the MBUX Navigation system and be on the road with a designated speed limit. While the driver doesn’t need to initiate the lane change, their hands must remain on the steering wheel. Furthermore, the ALC system assists with navigating road exits and merging onto different highways.
In autonomous driving terms, the ALC falls under SAE level two. This level designates that the driver retains control even as the car handles the steering and pedals. Examples of this level include adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. The transition to level three, where the vehicle can drive in certain conditions without the driver’s direct control, is significant. Therefore, engineers have coined the term “level two-plus” for ALC as an intermediary step.
ALC marks a substantial advancement from LKA’s existing lane centering and cruise control mix. While LKA combines automated steering, braking, and acceleration to a certain extent, ALC goes further by executing lane changes on multi-lane roads. However, it only goes so far as to assume complete hands-free control.
It’s important to note that this technology is only partially novel. Tesla already offers an assisted lane change function, and in 2016, JLR developed a prototype for a “driver-assisted overtake” maneuver.
For those who harbor reservations about total autonomous driving, the gradual evolution of ADAS towards that goal offers reassurance. Mercedes’ need to adapt its technology for European roads underscores the complexity of independent vehicle development. This process is not without its challenges, but as the technology matures, it becomes clear that the road to fully autonomous vehicles is a nuanced journey.