I love driving, and I’d never want to lose the ability to take the wheel and control my own acceleration and braking through corners and along winding country roads. For longer journeys though, I now wouldn’t be without the automated driving technologies that some of the best electric cars offer.
Last weekend, I drove north to visit some friends which is normally a gruelling three and a half hours each way. However, this time I was in the Mercedes EQS with its advanced driving assistance package and the hours just flew by. The system on the car is not fully automated – it’s a level 2 system that provides dynamic cruise control and lane keeping.
While you still need to have your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, your feet can stay off the pedals for most of the journey. The car will keep you a set distance from any traffic in front, braking and accelerating when needed, and the steering will largely keep you in the centre of the lane, even around bends, so only the slightest adjustment is needed.
Though you remain completely focused on the road, having these technologies active does take away much of the stress of long drives. It’s like sharing the driving with a copilot, but you’re always on hand to take over when needed.
The Mercedes Driving Assistance Package Plus comes as standard on all versions of the EQS apart from the AMG Line model. The system uses the car’s in-built cameras, radar and ultrasound to constantly monitor the surroundings, including traffic and road conditions. It also factors in navigation data and live traffic information to help with the drive.
When activated the system controls acceleration and braking, keeping you a set distance (changeable from the steering wheel) from anything in front, or to the side of you – to avoid undertaking. The Stop-and-Go Assist function means that it can be even used in traffic jams, where the car comes to a complete stop, setting off again with a quick press on the accelerator if stopped for a period of time.
The Active Steering Assist doesn’t let you take your hands off the wheel but you can feel it constantly adjusting to keep the car in the centre of the lane at all times. It’s not perfect, and there were times I had to adjust myself but for the most part it does all the work as long as your hands remain on the wheel.
There are also a number of emergency systems built into the package, including Active Brake Assist. This can detect other vehicles, as well as bikes and pedestrians that are in your path and automatically apply the brakes – at the same time, tighten your seat belt and issue a loud warning. While I found this a little over-sensitive at times, it did spot a motorbike that almost pulled out in front of me well before I did.
Having already seen Mercedes’ Level 3 Drive Pilot system on trial in the US – which will not only let you take your hands off the wheel, but also your eyes – the Driving Assitance Package Plus is a nice precursor and makes me even more excited for effortless automated transportation. Suddenly taking long drives for the weekend seems less of an effort.