The next Mercedes-Benz S-Class will debut level three autonomy as the German brand takes a significant step towards a driverless future.
Reports out of the Paris motor show quote the company's soon-to-be CEO, Ola Kaellenius, confirming his company would introduce the technology on the brand's traditional flagship before the driverless technology trickled down to cheaper cars in the range.
The next S-Class will arrive in 2020, with Mercedes expecting the technology to be offered as a cost option, and one that would quickly appear in the rest of the line-up.
"We are on the verge of jumping to level three, which is our target for the next S-Class," Kaellenius told Automotive News. "That is something that you can then buy as an option, and you can proliferate it relatively quickly into higher volumes -- especially with a brand like Mercedes.
"The next S-Class is due for 2020, so the timeframe should be realistic."
Driverless technology is measured in five distinct levels. Level one means the car can control a single function automatically, like cruise control, while level two allows for a driver to temporarily remove their hands and feet from the controls. The latter already exists in the current-generation S-Class, along with other models on the road today, like the Tesla Model S.
Level three then ups the ante, reducing the driver to an in-case-of-emergency proposition on some roads, with driver intervention only required if an accident is imminent. Audi's A8 flagship is equipped with level three technology, ready to be "turned on" as soon as government approval across several countries is granted to activate it.
Level four autonomy is "eyes off, hands off" motoring, with a car able to complete most trips by itself, while level five is complete autonomy in all situations, from highways to gravel tracks, driveways to parking lots.
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