FRANKFURT -- Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius issued the biggest hint yet that the upcoming Mercedes-Benz S-Class could offer “eyes-off” highly automated driving when the luxury sedan reaches the market later this year.
"The S-Class reaches the next milestone when it comes to automated driving: Stay tuned for the world premiere in early September," Kallenius told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting on July 9.
During the 2018 Paris auto show, Kallenius indicated that his goal was to equip the next S-Class with Level 3 autonomy, which allows the driver to hand over control to the car under certain circumstances.
Company executives, however, haven't revealed whether they had achieved the breakthrough, in part to manage expectations. They are also aware of the new liability risks manufacturers could face after debuting eyes-off automated driving.
A Daimler source said that while providing Level 3 capability for highway driving remains the target, doing so is not entirely within the automaker's hands.
That is because it was only last month that regulators agreed on a set of guidelines for approving the first Level 3 system for sale in the European Union, Japan and almost two dozen other markets. This could allow Mercedes to apply for a change to its S-Class type approval once the new regulation takes effect in January.
Even if it is able to introduce the new EU-approved feature called Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS), it does not mean that drivers can legally use it.
Only Germany currently has approved owners to activate Level 3 conditionally autonomous systems.
Most European countries have not seen the need to update their road traffic laws as the technology was not on the market.