With the help of Valeo’s Scala lidar sensors, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be able to drive in conditionally automated mode under controlled conditions – such as on the highway and in dense traffic (currently possible up to a limit of 60 km/h). In conditionally automated mode the vehicle takes full control of the driving, meaning the driver can temporarily take their attention off the road ahead. During highway journeys, conditionally automated mode gives the driver time to relax or focus on tasks other than driving. According to the SAE definition for level 3 autonomy, authorized activities will include making calls, surfing the web or reading emails, all via the vehicle’s built-in infotainment system. (Not allowed are leaving the driver’s seat or even turn around in the seat – such activities will be detected by the driver monitoring camera in the dashboard).
The general consensus is that level 3 automation can only be achieved using lidar technology combined with a variety of sensors. Valeo claims that its lidar is the first series-produced laser scanner in the world to equip vehicles already on the market and to meet the demanding specifications of the automotive market, especially in terms of reliability. It offers unique perception capabilities in various situations and all-weather conditions, scanning the area in front of the vehicle 25 times per second. The device also combines a long detection range of over 200 meters with a broad field of vision. More than 150,000 units have been produced since it was launched in 2017. Valeo’s second-generation lidar hits the market in 2021 and the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the first vehicle in the world to be equipped with it.
The Mercedes S-Class will also be the first car to be equipped with Valeo’s new generation lidar cleaning system. Vehicle lidars require a clean field of vision in all seasons and road conditions. This is where Valeo’s system comes in, with two innovations demonstrated on the new S-Class. First, the device offers a de-icing feature, which works by heating the telescopic nozzle that sprays the cleaning fluid. Second, it cleans the front of the lidar by spraying a curtain of liquid across its entire surface, rather than just spraying from a single point, as is the case when using a traditional nozzle. Designed to be built into the sensor itself, this cleaning solution is invisible and does not affect the vehicle’s appearance.