Mercedes Is First To Offer Autonomous Driving In The U.S.

  • Named ‘Drive Pilot,’ the self-driving system allows the car to drive the car as long as the driver is able to take over if need be
  • The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS will be the first models in America to offer Level 3 autonomous driving
  • Although already launched in Germany, the system is debuting for the first time in the US, starting in Nevada

Mercedes-Benz has received the first U.S. approval for a fully hands-off driving feature, the company said yesterday. Called Drive Pilot, the system allows drivers to take their hands completely off the wheel—in certain conditions.

When enabled, drivers can read a book, play a game, or even post on Instagram. Other driver-assist technologies, like Tesla’s Autopilot, require drivers to pay attention and keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

The EQS and S-Class will be the first models to offer Drive Pilot.

Mercedes has already launched this tech in Germany, while carmakers like Subaru introduced Level 3 autonomy, in certain conditions (up to 30mph which is perfect for cruising in traffic jams), over two years. Honda was actually the first carmaker in the world to be granted Level 3 self-driving status in Japan in May last year.

So far, Nevada is the only U.S. state to have approved Drive Pilot, with California expecting to phase it in soon as well. The Mercedes self-driving tech only works on highways at speeds under 40 mph— meaning it’s most useful during situations like traffic jams.

The new Level 3 Drive Pilot system will be offered in the U.S. as an option on the 2024 EQS and S-class sedans.

The new system permits the driver to leave primary duties to the car’s onboard computer which means drivers don’t have to touch the steering wheel or constantly watch the road like with standard ACC systems. This is distinct from Level 2 systems such as GM’s Super Cruise, which has facial monitoring tech to ensure the driver is paying attention to the road. But, with the Mercedes system, a driver must still be ready to grab the steering wheel at any time if need be.

Guiding Drive Pilot is a mix of GPS, lidar, myriad sensors, and cameras. If any system goes down for whatever reason, Mercedes says there are braking and steering fail-safes to maintain control of the car until the driver retakes the helm. If the driver fails to do so in a set time frame, the system will stop the car completely, switch on the hazard lights, and call emergency services instantly.

Mercedes launched Drive Pilot in Germany back in May 2022 just after Honda launched their Level 3 tech in Japan. For now, Nevada is the only U.S. state where Drive Pilot has received regulatory approval. However, Mercedes says it’s currently working on earning approval in California with the hope that it’ll be certified sometime later in 2023.

Fitted with the optional Drive Pilot tech, the 2024 EQS and S-Class models are expected to start deliveries to customers in the second half of 2023.

OUR THOUGHTS

The Mercedes system is the first time Level 3 tech has been employed in the U.S., but it has to start somewhere. Now that a precedent has been reached, and cleared, we can expect other states to follow suit rather quickly—with California already putting its hands up. For the record, tech that allows for Level 3 autonomous driving and automatic parking already exists. It’s just a matter of local governments giving the okay and sooner, rather than later, people will be driving hands-free and parking hands-free.

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