Imagine driving on a highway, but instead of keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, you are relaxing in your seat, browsing the internet, watching a video, or making a phone call. It sounds like science fiction, right? Well, not anymore. Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will make this scenario a reality with its production-ready version of Drive Pilot, the world's first certified SAE Level 3 system for the U.S. market, which will be launched in late 2023.
Drive Pilot is a system that allows the driver to delegate the dynamic driving task to the car in certain traffic situations while the car monitors the road conditions and traffic flow and decides when it is safe to activate or deactivate the system. This means that the driver can engage in other activities as long as they are ready to resume control when prompted by the system.
Drive Pilot is a technological breakthrough that sets Mercedes-Benz apart from other automakers that offer Level 2 systems, such as Tesla's Autopilot or GM's Super Cruise. Level 2 systems require the driver to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel at all times, while Level 3 systems do not. However, Level 3 systems are not fully autonomous, as they rely on human intervention in complex or unpredictable scenarios.
Drive Pilot will be available on the 2024 Mercedes-Benz EQS sedan and S-Class models, which are already equipped with advanced sensors and cameras that enable a range of driver assistance features. Drive Pilot will use these sensors and cameras, along with high-definition maps and artificial intelligence, to monitor the road conditions and traffic flow and to decide when it is safe to activate or deactivate the system.
Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot will only work on mapped highways and during daylight hours when there is no rain or snow, and when the traffic speed is below 40 mph. The system will also check the driver's attention level and readiness to take over through an infrared camera inside the cabin. If the system detects that the driver is not paying attention or is not ready to resume control, it will issue a series of warnings and alerts. If the driver does not respond, the system will bring the car to a safe stop on the shoulder and call for emergency assistance.
Drive Pilot will be offered as a subscription service through the U.S. Mercedes me connect store for $2,500 per year. The system will initially be available in California and Nevada, where Mercedes-Benz has received state approval for deployment of a Level 3 vehicle. The company plans to expand the availability of Drive Pilot to other U.S. markets in the future and other countries where the regulatory framework allows for Level 3 systems.