Nevada has become the first US state to certify Mercedes-Benz and its Level 3 conditionally automated driving system. Mercedes is the first automaker to bring that level of autonomous driving to the US, offering its Drive Pilot technology in select vehicles.
The system takes over driving the vehicle, allowing the driver to focus on secondary activities. Drive Pilot functions on suitable freeways with high traffic density at speeds up to 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour). Control buttons on the steering wheel rim indicate when the system is operational, and the driver only has to press them to engage it. Drive Pilot can control the car’s speed and distance, guiding it in its lane while taking evasive maneuvers in reaction to unexpected traffic situations.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot Level 3 Autonomous Technology
Mercedes packs the car with sensors, building off the company’s Driving Assistance Package to create Drive Pilot. Vehicles with the technology have a rear-window camera and microphones to detect emergency vehicles and a road wetness sensor in the wheel well. Mercedes also uses LiDAR to keep the car where it needs to be. The company installs redundant steering and braking actuators and a redundant onboard electric system to ensure safe handover to the driver.
The system features a fail-safe if the driver fails to heed the system’s prompts to retake vehicle control. If this happens, the vehicle will apply the brakes, engage the warning hazard lights, unlock the doors, and activate the emergency call system once the car stops.
Another feature of the Drive Pilot system is its high-precision positioning system, which Mercedes says is more powerful than conventional GPS. The map’s accuracy is measured in centimeters instead of meters like regular navigation systems, providing a three-dimensional image of the road and its surroundings with road geometry information also available. Mercedes stores the map in a data center, which is accessible by its vehicles and allows for accurate positioning.
Mercedes will offer Drive Pilot in the 2024 S-Class and EQS sedan, delivering the first cars to customers in the second half of 2023. The company hopes to expand Drive Pilot usage to California soon as it has already filed certification documents with the state.