Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS customers in the US will soon be able to add Drive Pilot to their luxury saloons’ extravagant options list. The German automaker is bringing its Level 3 autonomous driving capability to the US by the end of 2023, ahead of all its rivals including Tesla, and the brand has just released additional pricing and availability details.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the system in Germany last year, and it has now confirmed that California and Nevada will be next, where a limited fleet of EQS models will be equipped with Drive Pilot in late 2023. More deliveries of Drive Pilot-equipped S-Class and EQS sedans will start in early 2024, Mercedes-Benz said.
Drive Pilot’s starting price is $2,500 for the first year, and further pricing and options will be available at a later date. The Mercedes-Benz system is a step ahead of Tesla’s Autopilot in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) certification – Autopilot is a Level 2 system, while Full-Self Driving (FSD) beta is Level 2+.
The SAE has certified Level 3 capability for “conditional autonomy,” wherein the vehicle remains autonomous when the feature is engaged, but after signaling an alert, the driver must immediately take over. SAE also added that Level 3-certified cars can only self-drive under certain conditions, and will not operate until all criteria are met.
Mercedes-Benz told InsideEVs that the Level 3 system will function in all major cities including Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, San Diego, Las Vegas, and all the connecting freeways inside the Operational Design Domain (ODD) – a set of suitable conditions for the system, including, but not limited to, route characteristics and traffic.
Level 3 is conditional autonomy and the German automaker’s spokesperson told us that additional features on the central screen will be enabled when autonomy is activated. Drivers can browse the web, watch a movie using the YouTube app, and play mini-games including Shuffle Puck.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot Certified For SAE Level 3 Conditionally Automated Driving In Nevada
InsideEVs sister channel Motor1 tested the Level 3 Drive Pilot early this year and found that it functioned as intended.
Remember that Level 3 availability is dictated by state regulation, which is why it will only be available in two states for now. Moreover, it’s a subscription-based service. If customers migrate to a state where the regulations disallow Level 3 driving, they will have the option to discontinue the service.
Mercedes-Benz claims that the Drive Pilot uses a positioning system stronger than the GPS, with precision accuracy within inches. It will be supported by LiDAR, camera, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. Additionally, a digital HD map will provide a 3D image of the road, including information like road geometry, route, traffic signs, and irregularities like accidents and construction zones.
The system will get regularly updated thanks to back-end data centers. However, the Drive Pilot will only support a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, which might be a dealbreaker for many customers, and possibly not worth the extra money. That’s a regulatory requirement, and Mercedes-Benz can raise it to 70 mph when federal and state laws permit.
The EQS and S-Class will also feature steering, braking actuators, and on-board electrical systems that are redundant, meaning drivers’ can intervene and take over at all times.
Autonomous driving systems are undergoing a bumpy patch in their development journey in the US. Tesla’s Autopilot is the subject of several ongoing NHTSA investigations. Autopilot-enabled Teslas have crashed into emergency vehicles and also face allegations of causing fatal accidents.
Tesla is not the only carmaker undergoing scrutiny. Just last week, a herd of 20 General Motors’ Cruise Robotaxis caused an awkward and disorderly traffic snarl on Austin’s streets. So the technology clearly has a long way to go before it can be mass adopted. What are your thoughts on the Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot? Let us know in the comments.
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