User Experience Evaluation: High-Speed Autonomous Driving in 2015 Mercedes S-Class

Hidden Controls and Lack of Consistent Warnings for Sub-system Failures Will Impact First-time Users

Boston, MA – September 10, 2015 – Semi-autonomous driving systems have the potential to be a game-changer. Allowing the attention requirements of a driver to be greatly lessened, cognitive load is freed up for non-driving related tasks such as light engagement with passengers or viewing scenery. Long stretches of motorway driving at speed can potentially become safer and more enjoyable experiences.

A recent expert review from the In-vehicle UX (IVX) group at Strategy Analytics ( has evaluated one such system: the high-speed autonomous driving system in the 2015 Mercedes S-Class. Overall, the feature has many positives. When all systems are functioning normally, the ride on a motorway is smooth and steady; the vehicle properly maintains its speed, following distance, and position in the center of the lane. The instrument cluster display is sharp and visually appealing, attention alerts are not unsettling, and ‘hand-offs’ feel natural. In addition, intentional take-overs by the driver are accomplished without having to fight the system for control.

However, there were several issues encountered which impeded first-time users. Hidden controls make first-time use a challenge and scattered, unintuitive iconography on the cluster exacerbates this problem. But most notable and problematic of these flaws is the lack of consistent warning for sub-system failures, particularly steering assist.

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Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author commented, “Semi-autonomous systems are touted as ways to let the driver focus on other things for short periods of time. But this requires all sub-systems to reliably warn the driver every time it turns off. If one sub-system fails, this entire experience fails.”

Chris Schreiner , Director, User Experience Innovation Practice added, “A semi-autonomous system with holistic HMI, developed with the user experience taken into full account, could be the gateway to improved consumer acceptance of driverless technology. But in order for that to happen, it is important that these crucial user experience flaws are resolved in future models.”

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