Self-Driving Cars

Mercedes-Benz, NVIDIA join forces to create computer-focused automated driving solutions

Mercedes-Benz is planning for an automated driving future.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

There's a lot that goes into self-driving vehicles. It's not just cameras and radar. There's a bevy of technology that goes into solving the "how" question as well as attempt to automate how to react to other drivers demonstrating their free will, safely or unsafely. Then there's the regulations and laws to consider, not to mention the wide variety of roads, differing traffic laws by jurisdiction, and the appearance (or lack thereof) of a variety of lane markings. And that's just a quick list off the top of the head.

It's no wonder that automakers are pairing up with tech companies to come up with computer solutions to automated driving. Mercedes-Benz is the latest to do so, having joined forces with NVIDIA. According to a release, the two companies are planing to work together to "develop the most sophisticated and advanced computing architecture ever deployed in an automobile."

Mercedes is set to begin rolling out vehicles with the technology in 2024.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The solution will be software based and built on the NVIDIA DRIVE platform. Mercedes-Benz is already saying that the architecture will be deployed in the company's next-generation fleet and will allow for automated driving functionalities.

What features can drivers expect? According to Mercedes, "A primary feature will be the ability to automate driving of regular routes from address to address. In addition, there will be numerous future safety and convenience applications. Customers will be able to purchase and add capabilities, software applications and subscription services through over-the-air software updates during the life of the car."

This includes developing AI and automated vehicle applications that include SAE vehicle automation Level 2 and 3 levels, as well as automated parking functions (up to Level 4).

Level 2 is considered partial automaton and is defined as requiring the vehicle to be in a specific drive mode to allow for the specific execution of one or more driver assistance systems regarding steering and acceleration/deceleration.

Level 3 is conditional automation. This level allows drivers to switch on automated functionality as part of a drive mode and for that enabled technology to perform all the aspects of dynamic driving. When the system requests, a human can intervene.

Level 4 is a highly automated version of Level 3 requiring even more sophistication. A vehicle with Level 4 technology can respond on its own if a driver does not "properly" respond to prompts from the system to take control. This technology would not be available in just one mode, bu rather in many.

The DRIVE platform includes a computer system-on-chip (SoC), called Orin, which is based on recently announced NVIDIA Ampere supercomputing architecture. It includes a full system software stack designed for automated driving AI applications.

The NVIDIA DRIVE platform includes a full system software stack designed for automated driving AI applications. NVIDIA and Mercedes-Benz will jointly develop the AI and automated vehicle applications that include SAE Level 2 and 3 levels, as well as automated parking functions (up to Level 4).

The new system's state-of-the-art capabilities will be harnessed with a total focus on safety. As the technology and regulatory framework develop, it will be possible for every car to be updated over-the-air to enable new automated driving functions. Convenience as well as other safety features will also be available.

To develop the new models, both companies will be utilizing NVIDIA DRIVE Infrastructure solutions to enable data driven development and deep neural network development to handle the requirements of the regions and operational domains where the cars will be available.

A statement from Mercedes says that the technology will begin rolling out in 2024.

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EQS buyers will have access to two years of free charging.

Electrify America

The Mercedes-Benz EQSis set to start hitting dealers' lots in just a few months, and the automaker is working drum up excitement for the all-new EV. Today, Electrify America announced that it will partner with Mercedes to offer charging services to buyers of the upcoming vehicle.

The agreement means that EQS owners will have two years of free charging, which includes 30-minute charging sessions at Electrify America locations. The services go a step further, however, and will include the ability to plug and charge. This means that EQS owners who have activated their Mercedes me Charge accounts can start a free charging session just by plugging the vehicle into the charger. Electrify America says that no authentication or initiation steps will be required.


2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS The EQS is due to hit the market in late 2021.Mercedes-Benz


The agreement between Mercedes-Benz and Electrify America will also extend some services to future EQ battery-electric vehicles, as well as future Mercedes plug-in hybrid vehicles. The company notes that there may be costs to charge for those vehicles, but drivers will still be able to use the Mercedes me app to initiate sessions.

As more automakers jump in the EV game, free charging partnerships are becoming a bigger deal. Just last month, Hyundai announced that buyers of its Ioniq 5 EV will receive two years of free charging from Electrify America, and Ford offered free charging to its Mustang Mach-E customers, also through Electrify America, though The Blue Oval's offer only extended to 250 kilowatt-hours.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS The partnership with Electrify America will provide access to chargers across the country.Mercedes-Benz


The EQS itself is Mercedes' first vehicle in what will become an electric sub-brand for the automaker. It will hit the market as a 2022 model late in 2021, and will be offered in two models. The entry level machine features 329 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, while the up-level EQS 580 4Matic will see 516 horsepower and 611 pound-feet of torque. Beyond its electric powertrain, the EQS will offer several advanced tech features, including a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and a 17.7-inch touchscreen. Even the passenger gets a display in the new car, as a second 12.3-inch screen will be positioned on the right portion of the dash.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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