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On March 20, 2022, industry publication Road & Track caused a bit of a splash when it reported not only that German auto manufacturer Mercedes-Benz plans to seek approval for its “Drive Pilot” system here in the United States by year end but also that “Mercedes will accept full legal responsibility for the vehicle whenever Drive Pilot is active.”

Executive Summary

Level 3—the first level of truly automated driving—is almost here, according to recent reports about Mercedes-Benz. While the reports reveal the German auto maker's intention to seek approval for its Drive Pilot system in the U.S. by year-end, and to accept full responsibility for crashes in Drive Pilot, Mercedes's commitment is practically illusory in its impact on U.S. consumers, insurers and liability professionals, write lawyers Mike Nelson and Stephanie Niehaus. Here, they explain why and also briefly describe the prospects of using vehicle data to objectively determine liable parties in auto accidents, including the manufacturers of increasingly autonomous vehicle systems.

Per the Road & Track report:

Mercedes’ new Drive Pilot seems, in operation, like many ‘traffic jam assistant’ technologies already on sale today. On certain highways, below 40 mph, a Drive Pilot-equipped S-Class or EQS will take control of the car’s speed, steering, and brakes to move you along in traffic. But there’s one key difference: Once you engage Drive Pilot, you are no longer legally liable for the car’s operation until it disengages. You can look away, watch a movie, or zone out. If the car crashes while Drive Pilot is operating, that’s Mercedes’ problem, not yours.

Source: Mack Hogan, “Mercedes Drive Pilot Beats Tesla Autopilot By Taking Legal Responsibility,” Road & Track (March 20, 2022)

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