Mercedes-Benz revealed on Wednesday that American drivers would be able to purchase Drive Pilot, its Level 3 automated driving system, starting in late 2023, making it the country’s first automaker to do so.
“Drive Pilot is a technological game changer and incredible leap forward in the pursuit of conditionally automated driving,” said Dimitris Psillakis, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.
“This ground-breaking system reinforces our intention to lead in safety and technology, while giving precious time back to our customers during heavy traffic situations.”
Drive Pilot will be accessible on a small number of EQS sedans in California and Nevada through participating authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers. In other states, Level 3 autonomous driving is not permitted by law. Mercedes-Benz intends to extend the option to S-Class models as well in the early 2024.
Prices start at $2,500, with other pricing options to be announced at a later date.
How it works
Drive Pilot employs LiDAR, a camera in the rear window, microphones to identify emergency cars, and a road wetness sensor to direct its driving, however it can only be used at speeds up to 40 mph. In case one of these systems fails, there are backup steering and braking actuators as well as backup on-board electrical systems.
“Drive Pilot is the world’s first and only system for conditionally automated driving with internationally valid type approval,” said Markus Schäfer, Mercedes‑Benz Group’s chief technology officer. It is engineered with a sophisticated system architecture based on redundancy with many different sensor types.
“I strongly believe that redundancy is key for safe automated driving for level 3 and beyond. Safety is one of Mercedes-Benz core values. Responsible handling of this technology is our top priority and the key to acceptance among customers and in society.”
High-precision global positioning technology, more potent than traditional GPS systems, is used to pinpoint the location of a Drive Pilot-equipped Mercedes-Benz vehicle within a few inches.
In addition to the information gathered by the car’s lidar, camera, radar, and ultrasonic sensors, a digital HD map offers a three-dimensional representation of the road and its surroundings, which is continuously updated. Also, each vehicle retains a copy of this map data and regularly compares it with the backend data, updating it when needed.
Based on SAE J3134 Recommended Practice, Mercedes-Benz has created turquoise Automated Driving Marker Lights in the color turquoise that indicate when Drive Pilot is active. The United States does not currently have a national regulatory framework in place for its use, however.
How it differs
Drive Pilot is Level 3 autonomous driving, commonly referred to as conditional autonomy, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers. It only permits the car to drive in specific circumstances. While a driver can divert their attention, they must be prepared to take control right away when the car asks it.
Although more sophisticated systems, like Waymo and Cruise, have been certified for ride-sharing services, Mercedes-Benz now has an advantage over Tesla, which falsely claims that their vehicles are Level 3 self-driving when in fact they are not. All other currently available autonomous driving systems are Level 2.
And while Tesla, Volvo and other automakers have promised to offer competing Level 3 systems, they have yet to appear.