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Bentley boss labels Level 3 autonomy dangerous

Risks present when vehicle hands control back to driver, says Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark

5 Apr 2024

BENTLEY CEO Adrian Hallmark has declared Level 3 autonomous driving technology as “dangerous”, saying the Volkswagen Group subsidiary will increase focus on more advanced driver assistance systems instead.


Mr Hallmark – who will take over stewardship of Aston Martin later this year – said the danger in Level 3 autonomy comes when the driver is required to take over in select situations.


“We think Level 3 is dangerous from all the testing analysis that we have done because it relied too much on recovery of attention and intervention from the driver,” he explained.


Level 3 autonomous driving technology is legally allowed to drive vehicles so equipped in Germany and some US states.


Mr Hallmark said that as a result of said analysis, Bentley will focus on providing a more sophisticated version of its Level 2 system – known as Level 2 Plus Plus – in its forthcoming fully electric car (due in 2026).


However, Level 2 Plus Plus – and Level 2 Plus for that matter – is not recognised by SAE International. The constant with all Level 2 solutions is that the driver is always responsible for control of the vehicle.


Within the Volkswagen Group, Bentley comes under the control of Audi, which has yet to join German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz in launching a Level 3-ready car in its home market.


Manufacturers that offer Level 3 autonomous driving do so in line with United Nations regulations that took effect in January 2021 governing Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS).


The regulations allow Level 3 driving only at speeds of up to 60km/h on roads where there is a barrier separating vehicles as they move in opposite directions.


Level 3 may not be used on roads that allow cyclists or pedestrians.


The technology is considered by some to be problematic because it requires the driver to be ready to resume control of the vehicle at any time.


Under UN regulations, drivers must be monitoring to show they are available to regain control when required. It is for this reason Mr Hallmark believes the technology is dangerous.


“Level 3 is the most risky phase of autonomous (driving). Level 4 is much safer,” he said.


Level 4-capable vehicles can operate independently in most scenarios, requiring far less driver interaction. However, the technology has not yet gained regulatory approval.


For Bentley, this delay allows it time to perfect the technology.


“Some of the autonomous features that we will not get are better than the ones that we would have gotten (under Level 3),” he added.


For example, the Bentley EV will be the first from the brand to offer what Mr Hallmark describes as “highway assist”. It will also offer automated low-speed parking and remote parking, he said.


With Automotive News Europe

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