Mercedes-Benz is officially the first carmaker to bring SAE Level 3 conditionally automated driving to the US after Nevada became the first state to confirm the compliance of the Drive Pilot system with state regulations.
Following the initial announcement at CES 2023, Mercedes-Benz has received the official certificate of compliance in Nevada attesting that the Drive Pilot system complies with the requirements of Nevada Chapter 482A for Autonomous Vehicles.
For now, only the 2024 Mercedes EQS and 2024 S-Class are offering the Drive Pilot option in the US, with the first vehicles to be delivered to customers in the second half of 2023.
Following the certification, Drive Pilot-equipped vehicles are now able to drive themselves legally in Nevada on US public freeways. The vehicles will drive everywhere in the US, but Level 3 autonomy will only be available in areas of Nevada where it is legal.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot Certified For SAE Level 3 Conditionally Automated Driving In Nevada
More specifically, on suitable freeway sections and where there is high traffic density, Drive Pilot can offer to take over the dynamic driving task, but only up to 40 mph (64 km/h). According to Mercedes, the speed restriction is mostly due to government regulation, as Drive Pilot is currently designed for high-traffic settings.
That said, the automaker claims the system possesses the technical capabilities to function at higher speeds, a hint that the speed limit will be raised in the future.
How does it work?
Drivers will be alerted that the system is available by the control buttons located on the steering wheel rim above the thumb recesses. When the driver activates the system, it controls the speed and distance, and guides the vehicle within its lane.
Drive Pilot is said to take into consideration elements like the route profile, events occurring on the route and traffic signs. Mercedes says it can also react to unexpected traffic situations and handle them independently – for example, making evasive maneuvers within the lane or braking.
Drive Pilot builds on the surround sensors of the Driving Assistance Package and adds more sensors that Mercedes‑Benz considers indispensable for safe conditionally automated driving. These include LiDAR, a camera in the rear window, microphones for detecting emergency vehicles, and a road wetness sensor in the wheel well.
Drive Pilot-equipped vehicles also have redundant steering and braking actuators as well as a redundant on-board electrical system. As a result, the system remains maneuverable even if one of these systems fails and a safe handover to the driver can be ensured.
Should the driver fail to take back control even after increasingly urgent prompting and expiration of the takeover time, the system brakes the vehicle to a standstill in a controlled manner while engaging the hazard warning lights.
Once the vehicle has come to a standstill, the Mercedes‑Benz emergency call system is activated and the doors are unlocked to allow first responders access to the interior.
After Nevada, California will be the next state to grant approval to Mercedes-Benz's Drive Pilot system. The automaker has already filed certification documents with state authorities and is hoping to be officially approved later this year.