Will Level3 self-driving cars will hit the roads or not?
The autonomous vehicle segment will take a leap in 2023, as level 3 cars hit the roads and level 4 vehicles undergo tests. Mercedes-Benz (Germany) will start offering its level 3 driving system, Drive Pilot, in California and Nevada in the US in 2023.
The Stellantis automotive group is right now working on Level 3 and Level 4 solutions with technology partners such as BMW and Waymo.
The Waymo collaboration, which began in 2016, includes development of a Level 4 ready Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid MPV for the world’s first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix (North America).
Waymo is also working exclusively with Stellantis as their preferred partner on the development and testing of Level 4 self-driving light commercial vehicles.
Meanwhile, BMW’s Level 3 self-driving technology should be on sale in its next generation 7 Series luxury sedan.
Interestingly, full autonomy driving remains some way off as isolated incidents of serious accidents happen when full autonomous driving is in use.
Right now the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Tesla itself should face criminal charges over its self-driving claims, Reuters reported.
Here is what happened. After midnight on Dec. 29, 2019, Kevin George Aziz Riad, now 28, exited a freeway in Gardena, California, in a Tesla Model S, ran a red light and crashed into a Honda Civic, police say.
The driver and passenger in the Civic, Gilberto Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, died at the scene. They were on their first date, relatives told the Orange County Register.
The car’s Autopilot system, which can control speed, braking and steering, was engaged at the time of the crash.
Tesla does not face charges in the case, and legal experts say the bar for a criminal case against a company is high.
Tesla did not respond to Reuters’ request for comments. Tesla says on its website that its driver assistance systems “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
The family of Gilberto Lopez is suing Tesla with trial scheduled for July.
“I can’t say that the driver was not at fault, but the Tesla system, Autopilot, and Tesla spokespeople encourage drivers to be less attentive,” Donald Slavik, an attorney whose firm is representing Lopez’s family in a lawsuit against Tesla, told Reuters.
Slavik said Tesla understood the risks of its system but failed to manage those. “Tesla knows people are going to use Autopilot and use it in dangerous situations,” he said.
Musk said in September that he believed Tesla had a “moral obligation” to roll out what he calls “Full Self Driving” software, even if it was not perfect and Tesla were sued, because doing so could save lives.
Prosecutors have said Riad’s speeding and failure to brake was reckless. His lawyer, Arthur Barens, said in May that Riad should not be charged with a crime. Both declined to comment further.
Robert Blecker, a criminal law professor at New York Law School, said the probe by the Justice Department (DOJ) of Tesla’s claims could make it harder for California prosecutors at trial.
“The DOJ probe helps him because his claim is going to be ‘I relied on their advertising. Therefore, I was not aware of the risk there,'” Blecker said.
The legal and regulatory scrutiny of Tesla could shape perception of the company, a risk as it looks to defend itself in coming lawsuits, said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, who is also an adviser on new transportation technology.
“The narrative of Tesla potentially shifts from this innovative tech company doing cool things to this company just mired in legal trouble. That is the risk, and narrative is very important in civil litigation because both sides tell a jury a story,” he said.