Mercedes Breaks Out Of The Gate First — Their SAE Level 3 Automated Driving System Receives Certification in the United States.
In a leap over Tesla technology, Mercedes-Benz has become the first carmaker certified for SAE Level 3 hands-free driving in the U.S. in a standard-production vehicle. The state of Nevada has certified the Mercedes Drive Pilot system for conditional automated driving on public freeways. According to Mercedes, Drive Pilot will be offered as an option on 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS electric sedans, beginning in the second half of this year.
A little background: Mercedes first launched its DRIVE PILOT system at the end of 2021. Then they began shipping vehicles with the capability to customers in Germany in mid-2022, becoming the first automaker in the country to pass through the government’s stringent autonomous driving certification process.
Level 3 vehicles Currently Cruising The Autobahn
The recent certification follows Germany where Level 3 vehicles are legally allowed to drive themselves (with drivers prepared to take over if prompted) on specific portions of the Autobahn at limited speeds. Level 3 allows for hands-free driving, much like Level 2 systems on cars today. Specifically, Level 2 will disengage if the driver does not pay attention to the road. Level 3 does not require the driver to pay attention, but the driver must be prepared to resume control when prompted, such as when an emergency vehicle approaches.
What Level 3 Does
As part of this initial U.S. plan, the system can be used on certain sections of appointed freeways and operate up to 40 mph, designed for hands-free driving in traffic. Vehicles will let the driver know when conditions are suitable at which point the driver can activate Drive Pilot which will take over driving control, following all traffic signs, and reacting to the vehicles around it as it accelerates and brakes as necessary. If the driver is prompted to take control and fails to do so after repeated warnings, the vehicle will be brought to a stop, engage the hazard warning lights, make an emergency call and unlock the doors for first responders.
Redundant Safety Features
Safety is job one. Level 3 vehicles are equipped with five radars, six cameras, a wetness sensor, 12 ultrasonic sensors, a positioning system, microphones inside the car, and lidar for a total of 35 devices working together for a safe trip using detailed digital maps and data. That’s a lot of very advanced tech. We should have never doubted that Mercedes-Benz would be the first automaker to be certified for Level 3 autonomous driving.