Mercedes-Benz' Self-Driving Cars Will Prioritize Occupant Safety Over Pedestrians

Oct 11, 2016 11:48 AM EDT | Sovan Mandal


As if self-driving cars weren't confusing enough for pedestrians owing to the lack of that all-important eye contact, here is more reason to be wary of those from Mercedes. For the German luxury car maker has confirmed it will be prioritizing the safety of the occupants over those of the pedestrians, Car And Driver reported.

No matter how immoral or unethical the above might sound but Mercedes still justified its policy claiming it will at least save the lives of some if not all. The automaker further explained the whole aim of its autonomous driving technology will be to avert any situation that would boil down to making such tough decisions as to sacrifice the lives of some to save someone else.

"This moral question of whom to save: 99 percent of our engineering work is to prevent these situations from happening at all," said Christoph von Hugo, the manager of driver assistance systems and active safety at Mercedes. "We are working so our cars don't drive into situations where that could happen and [will] drive away from potential situations where those decisions have to be made."

The above, however, applies to the more advanced Level 4 and Level 5 mode of autonomous driving technology where the car is programmed to drive on its own in virtually any scenario. Such cars would come equipped with an array of radars, sensors, cameras, sonar system and maybe even lidar all of which will keep the car informed of its surroundings.

Also unlike humans, the above setup backed by suitable software will ensure there is never a lapse in 'concentration', hopefully cutting down on road accidents a vast majority of which are known to be caused due to human error.

Audi meanwhile has gone on record stating it will owe all moral and legal responsibility for any crashes including fatalities, if any, caused by its Level 3 autonomous driving tech that will debut with the new A8 set for launch next year. Volvo too has pledged all legal support in cases where it's self-driving cars might be involved.

Mercedes haven't made any such high-flying statement so far but have commenced advanced testing of its autonomous driving cars to ascertain its vulnerabilities. As of now, Merc's Drive Pilot systems, much like Tesla's Autopilot, requires humans to take over in scenarios where the car might not be able to steer clear on its own.

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