Car buyers looking to make use of the latest remote control features on luxury cars should be aware that these are illegal on South Africa’s public roads and may be blocked by default.
Remote Parking Assist is a service which allows owners of certain Mercedes-Benz models to manoeuvre their vehicle into and out of parking spots remotely via a connected smartphone app.
This technology employs ultrasonic sensors around the body of the car to safely drive it into tight spots while avoiding obstacles.
No driver is required, with the owner able to stand within around three metres from the car to perform the remote parking manoeuvre.
The benefit is simple – it allows for moving the car into or out of a tight parking spot in which it may be uncomfortable for the driver or passengers to climb into or out of the car.
Mercedes-Benz is not the only manufacturer which offers this smart feature.
BMW provides a similar capability with its Remote Control Parking feature, while several other manufacturers have a more limited remote starting feature.
Remote starting does not allow drivers to move the car, but they can turn on the vehicle’s engine from a distance.
This lets the owner engage air-conditioning, allowing for cooling or heating the interior of the car for a while before getting in.
It’s not hard to imagine the usefulness of these remote control features in various scenarios.
This was one of the big selling points of the Mercedes-Benz AMG which the client purchased, but to his surprise it was disabled. He could not even use the feature in his own driveway.
As seen in the image below, he was greeted with a notification on the app which informed him that the use thereof was prohibited on public roads in South Africa.
The user complained that the service was useless and expensive because of the limitation of use on public roads.
While the app itself is free on both Android and iOS, Mercedes-Benz charges a R279 fee to keep the service activated for three months, or R879 per year.
What the law says
The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 stipulates general duties of the driver or passenger in a motor vehicle.
This includes that the person driving a vehicle on a public road shall not “cause or allow the engine thereof to run while the motor vehicle is stationary and unattended”.
This implies that the vehicle may not be started or left to run without a motorist behind the steering wheel.
This would mean that remote starting and parking features cannot be used where the car is on a public road, such as a curb-side parking space.
The exception would be for cases where the feature is used on a private road, such as on a home or business driveway.
No indication of limits
While this means the capability may not be completely useless, the fact that Mercedes-Benz South Africa does not indicate that the service is not allowed for usage on public roads on the Mercedes Me Store could be misleading to customers.
The Remote Parking Assist purchasing page makes no mention of the service not being available on public roads.
Under Product Information, it simply states that the service is available for E-Class models from March 2016, and S-Class vehicle from the 2017 facelift.
In fact, the wording on the site specifically punts the ability to automatically park vehicles in snug parking spaces in the city centre or a residential area without struggling to get into or out of the car.
MyBroadband asked Mercedes-Benz South Africa why it does not include a disclaimer on its digital products purchasing page for the Remote Parking Assist feature but did not receive comment by the time of publication.