Mercedes E-Class and driving autonomous: we test DRIVE PILOT in Stuttgart [video]

Mercedes E-Class and driving autonomously are two concepts that seem to go hand in hand in the new model of Mercedes. We have had the opportunity to go to Stuttgart for try the already famous DRIVE PILOT, integrated into the new Mercedes E-Class, circulating roads and German autobahns, and trying to play with all of their assistance functions, which are not few.

The truth is that still does not lead alone, but we’re getting there

The expectations were sky-high, since, the brand has wrapped this model in a halo-tech (which is real) and driving semi-autonomous that could replace the driver in a multitude of situations. In this sense, the experience has been good because the car goes a step further in the help systems known up to now (lane keeping, speed control, intelligent…) but I can’t deny that it has been somewhat disappointing against the idea that the car they drive only.

The truth is, no, not riding alone.

DRIVE PILOT: the great novelty of the Mercedes E-Class

What’s promising: the so-called DRIVE PILOT is the core of the conduction system of semi-autonomous of the new Mercedes Class E. This complete system is able to keep the car in the lane without driver intervention, to maintain the speed programmed by the driver (which may be the maximum speed read through the traffic signals in each time), keeping the safety distance with the vehicle in front, braking autonomously up to the arrest, resume the march when the car in front starts moving, change lanes if it is indicated with the blinking, and finally entirely stop the vehicle in your lane if you arrive at the conclusion that since we are not paying attention at the wheel for far too long.

The Mercedes E-Class also incorporates a cutting-edge parking system to be completely autonomous that, that yes, it allows us to get off of the car and drive it from the outside in parking manoeuvres (rather contemplating how to park alone).

Watches us, helps us and protects us, but it does not lead by itself

How it works in reality: I was able to see firsthand all the features promised by the DRIVE PILOT (with the exception of the automatic total stop) and I can confirm that, indeed, the car does all that but with a twist. To begin with, hands can’t be far away from the steering wheel beyond about 10 or 15 seconds, so that the driving feeling autonomous is to be diluted a bit.

Apart from the legal grounds that force to maintain control in charge of a human being, what is certain is that there are many common situations in city and highway in that the Class E is not clear where to follow, so that we never feel the temptation to get us to do anything other than respond to what happens, nor what the system would allow. On the highway it does really well, but always need of monitoring and also makes mistakes.

Is a car designed to provide a level of assistance very, very high, but with a driver on board and hands on the wheel at all times (except parking). Watches us, helps us and protects us, but it does not lead by itself.

This set of measures that we are going to break down now, it represents at the time of writing these lines the most advanced system of driving assistance that is available in the market, even above that of its older brother, the Mercedes s Class.

Conducción autónoma Mercedes Clase E

autopilot of distance DISTRONIC

What’s promising: the system is an adaptive cruise control, as we are accustomed to seeing in more and more models, which maintain the safety distance with the vehicle in front by pressing the brake if it is necessary to stop total. If the vehicle resumes the march before 30 seconds, the system also resumes the march.

How it works in reality: this technology is very mature now. Works outstanding in the highway (like other similar systems from rival brands) but in another type of road and circumstances may come to think that we’re going to collide with any vehicle that is in a lane adjacent to right in a curve. It can also be confusing when the vehicle takes a detour and it takes a while to understand that our lane is already free. In these cases behaves like someone who does not see well, , exaggerating a lot of the distances in case of doubt.

By itself, this system is not radically new, although it is true that is among the best I have tried.

Conducción autónoma Mercedes Clase E

signal Recognition and driving even more autonomous with COMAND online

What’s promising: the system of recognition of signs combined with the adaptive cruise control is able to set the speed programmed in each moment, igualándola the limit signposted at each time dynamically. The system accelerates and slows down in each tranche as a function of the signals that will read and in terms of the basic knowledge about the infrastructure deducted from your current GPS position (you know that in towns the limit is 50 km/h but not see any signal).

Eliminates the need of going by reprogramming the speed every time that appears a new limit

How it works in reality: this system is a step forward interesting, by combining two already existing technologies (recognition of signs and speed control active), and works very well. Is able to recognize signals in the margins of the road, but also speed information embedded in the bright panels on the rail and the rate adaptation is as smooth as you would a person. Add a lot of value to both systems and eliminates the need of going by reprogramming the speed every time that appears a new limit, so that we will tend to go with the control, since much more time.

This system represents a great step forward. In the test stretch, of almost three hours duration, only jumped a limit on a small panel light side.

Conducción autónoma Mercedes Clase E

Assistant active lane keeping

The lane keeping is the crux of the matter, but also the most difficult to achieve

What’s promising: this system is the crux of the matter. If a car is able to conduct while maintaining your lane and draw all the curves needed to not collide with anything, without disturbing other drivers or disobey the law, we could begin to think that we are before a car self-employed or potentially self contained. I guess that is also the most difficult to achieve.

How it works in reality: much depends on the circumstances.

In ideal conditions the system impersonates almost completely to the driver

In ideal conditions (highway, well painted, with no curves and to circulate in traffic), the system impersonates almost completely by the driver and is able to guide the car up to 210 km/h (we were able to test it up to 200 km/h) without us having to do anything. Is reliable and gives a feeling of control is very high, so that long journeys by road in optimal conditions may be made with a great relaxation and security. We started very well.

at The exit of the motorway and to face the back roads of double meaning, the thing is complicated. Here, the system practically needs to follow another car to keep a right line, and still not make sharp bends, which tends to get gradually out demanding the intervention of the driver. Only the smoother curves you can trust to the system, and always with lines well contrasting on the asphalt.

There is still not an auto-pilot for cars real, at least to the sale

If you ride your bike without following another vehicle, the thing gets even more complicated and the system tends to approach gently to the line, right and left alternately, in a behavior little human. From here, tends to be lost when the right line passes to be replaced by a curb, for example, the color of which does not stands out over the rest of the asphalt. Again we have to intervene and the conduct ceases to be autonomous very quickly.

The conclusion at this point is that the hands have to be on the steering wheel always and the attention focused on the road. There is still not an auto-pilot for cars real, at least to the sale.

Conducción autónoma Mercedes Clase E

Wizard is active for lane change

It looks more like a demonstration of the power of face-to-gallery that an item that provides true value

What’s promising: this system offers the possibility of a lane change when buttons are intermittent for more than 2 seconds, both to the left and to the right. Enables lane changes on the motorway, to move forward or to return to the right lane, without touching andl steering wheel and with all the security that gives the detector dead angle, which will not allow the lateral displacement if there is another vehicle approaching.

How it works in reality: since the system already requires us to give signs of life, constantly on the steering wheel, this function seems more a demonstration of the power of face-to-gallery that an item that provides true value. If we want to change lanes and we are required to keep hands on the steering wheel (or acting on it every few seconds) this function seems quite dispensable in reality. Neither worked perfectly, since you need to see very clearly the lines to “understand” that there is a lane next to which we can travel. In addition, for that change effectively, lane has to happen in all of this:

1 – has been pressed on and off for more than two seconds
2 – The detection of free space authorizes a lane change within the next three seconds
3 – It has been on auto-pilot steering
4 – you Are driving on multi-lane roads, dual carriageway, recognized by the built-in navigation model in COMAND Online
5 – Speed between 80 and 180 km/h

to Be a significant development and a step towards driving autonomously, it really you do not have too much practical sense.

Conducción Autónoma Mercedes Clase E

assisted Parking and parking without driver

It is with this function while we parked the car from the mobile phone with the most palpable is the level of automation of the car

What’s promising: the new Mercedes Case And is able to park autonomously in parallel and a battery. In this second case, we can choose to park towards the back, that would be the most logical, but also we will be able to park in front of, for example, to leave the trunk accessible. The maneuver of parking can be done while we are inside the car, but also from the outside by controlling the process from an app on our mobile phone. The system is also capable of starting the car from the phone and get it out of the parking lot moving forward a few meters, or enter face-up in a garage in which there is a narrow space to enter and exit.

How it works in reality: the valet parking has a very good performance, and introduces the novelty of park forward in battery, a maneuver the most complicated for the normal driver. The possibility to park from the outside (as seen in the BMW 7-Series) gives us a plus of versatility to not have to get off in tight spaces, but I still see it more useful when you get the car out of a parking lot in which someone has left us no space to open the doors.

Interestingly, it is this function while we parked the car from the outside, to see him maneuver without driver, with the most palpable is the level of automation of the car.

Interior Mercedes Clase E

Other virguerías of the Mercedes E-Class

Wizard of maneuver of dodging: This system is capable of helping us to perform an emergency maneuver in which you try to dodge an obstacle appears in the road suddenly. The system needs to be the driver who starts the maneuver, but from there, we assist in making the turn to dodge and to straighten and control the car later. This is a maneuver that requires skill and quick little flows in the common drivers, so it seems very interesting that the car remove much of the effort and all the expertise needed. Unfortunately we have not been able to test this system in particular, so that we can not offer you of time first-hand information about their actual behavior.

Detention total when the driver does not respond: if we try to completely delegate to others driving on the auto-pilot of the Mercedes E-Class, we warn you that we take up the wheel first with a visual warning in the dashboard, and, soon after, repeated warnings acoustic and finally, if we do not react at all, it will stop smoothly the vehicle in its lane, triggering the emergency lights. For obvious reasons we have not been able to / wanted to test this function on the open road.

Integration of a communication system, Car-to-X: the new E-Class incorporates a system of to exchange information with other vehicles and with the infrastructure, that allows to store in a centralized system data that go beyond what is visible to the cameras and radars of the car, such as an accident, a zone of slow circulation or an unexpected obstacle behind the next bend.

The system is based on the existence of vehicles that precede us and that incorporate the same technology, so that it is possible to put forward information to those who come behind and would also work by combining information provided by the own path through the transmitters proper. Since currently this technology is virtually non-existent, may at first seem to be an contribution to be useless, but nothing could be further from the reality. The most logical and the most likely is that not only Mercedes in the whole range but many other brands are coming together more or less quickly to this technology, with what the current buyers of a Mercedes E-Class will have a car fully prepared for that immediate future.

Taking into account the potential of that information on the road ahead, we have to appreciate that Mercedes has dared to implement it in a pioneer way, even knowing that first time buyers will not get any benefit until within time, is expected to brief.

Mercedes Clase E

Conclusions: the feeling of letting it lead

At the wheel of the new Mercedes E-Class, and with the autopilot turned on, I have mixed feelings.

on the one hand I am aware that I am at the controls of the most advanced vehicle in the world in driving semi-autonomous, and it is evident that it helps me to drive safely and relaxed. The integration of the recognition signal with the adaptive cruise control, for example, seems an obvious next step in the evolutionary scale, while support to keep the lane going each time further and work better.

A step forward something shorter than what I expected

having Said all this, I have on the other hand the feeling of disappointment, the disappointment of having traveled to Stuttgart to stop driving a car and marvel at their level of autonomy and to meet with a step forward something shorter than what I expected. Its brilliance on the highway, where everything is very easy, it goes thinner as we drive on roads more narrow, or worse painted, where the autonomy is not yet really operational.

The Mercedes E-Class is intended to be taken with the hands on the wheel 100% of the time, and it is then when their support allow us to relax and to delegate in part the driving to a system which is perceived as watchful of our safety and of our environment. The car protects us from our forgetfulness, of our mistakes, and it is there where is today the driving autonomously.

So, no, still does not lead alone, but was already missing a little less.