Mercedes-Benz says it's continuously evaluating local market requirements for autonomous vehicle development, but it needs the cooperation other manufacturers, along with legislative and government bodies to bring about a driverless future.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the GLC63 AMG launch in Germany, local head of communication, David McCarthy, said it would be remiss to think Mercedes could go it alone with it comes to autonomous cars.
“We don’t intend to surrender the leadership [in the autonomous driving sector] but no one brand can ultimately be the only leader. There is a lot of cooperation, we are all converging on high level three and next challenge are levels after that, no one brand can ultimately have such a huge advantage over everyone else,” McCarthy told CarAdvice.
“So again, it’s a cooperative effort because again the government is producing the legislative framework, because in Australia there really isn’t any.”
McCarthy pointed out in Australia it is still illegal for a driver to have both hands off the steering wheel at any given time, making the whole advantage of autonomous cars somewhat irrelevant.
“Is it time to change that law yet? Probably not, so autonomous cars, where they are going to make the difference is in heavy traffic in freeways where there are very few entry and exit points.”
For now, level three autonomy is the best we are going to get until Australia is subject to a highly intensive and sophisticated LiDAR mapping to allow level four and beyond autonomy.
“I don’t see the day when it will just drive you around the suburbs, you’re going to have to have digital mapping, very high levels of technology. Again, it will be in my lifetime but it’s not going to happen [as quickly]… the level that we want it to be is still a few years away.”
The current LiDAR mapping of Australia will also need to be a collaborative effort, in order to provide the level of detail required in a timely manner.
“[There are a] lot of people doing it, with data eventually, you have to share it ultimately because if you want to advance the cause… yes there is a commercial reality but as a manufacturer, if you don’t share something with someone else, ultimately there might be something you want of theirs that they won’t share. So there has to cooperation
"If you want autonomous driving, all the brands working together will present a united face to governments, legislators, and insurers because otherwise, you will all end up in different paths, even if you might be aiming for the same target.”
Other challenges such as anti-trust laws are also hindering potential cooperation between manufacturers.
“There has to be commercial reality but you have to work together, but you have to understand that there are anti-trust implications and competition law that preclude you in certain cases. [But] there is no [other] barrier to us working with other companies to get an outcome.”
As for Australia, McCarthy believes we run the risk of falling behind if we don’t soon have a set of agreed policies from governments that the industry can work towards.
“There is a risk that if we don’t get the legislative framework right and we don’t get the cooperation right we will fall behind. Fuel quality and emissions are a prime example of that, other regulations are being harmonised with the EU.”