Mercedes-Benz has secured the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ approval for its automated driving system, surpassing Tesla in the race for advanced self-driving technology. The approval grants Mercedes-Benz the distinction of being the first carmaker authorized to sell or lease vehicles equipped with an automated driving system to the public in California.
With Tesla heavily reliant on the California market, accounting for 16% of their global deliveries last year, this approval marks a significant milestone for Mercedes-Benz. The German automaker’s Level 3 ‘DRIVE PILOT’ system enables drivers to legally divert their attention from the road while remaining ready to resume control when necessary.
“Mercedes-Benz DRIVE PILOT is the world’s only SAE Level 3 system with internationally valid type approval… The certification by the authorities in California and in Nevada once again confirms that redundancy is the safe and thus the right approach,” said CTO Markus Schäfer.
Under the approved conditions, the ‘DRIVE PILOT’ system operates exclusively on designated highways during daylight hours, with speeds capped at 40 miles per hour. Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce the automated driving system as an option for its 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedan models in the U.S. market, with initial deliveries expected later this year.
In contrast to Level 2 systems like Tesla’s Autopilot or General Motors’ Super Cruise, which require drivers to remain vigilant at all times, Mercedes-Benz’s Level 3 ‘DRIVE PILOT’ system offers greater autonomy. Drivers are permitted to take their hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals, allowing for limited engagement in activities such as conversing with passengers or even playing games like Tetris on the infotainment screen.
It’s worth noting that the ‘DRIVE PILOT’ system is not a fully autonomous solution. Drivers must maintain visibility to the in-car cameras, and any attempt to obstruct their face will disengage the system. Additionally, the system’s operation is limited to suitable freeway sections with high traffic density, primarily targeting heavy, stop-and-go traffic scenarios.
The permit granted to Mercedes-Benz enables them to deploy the ‘DRIVE PILOT’ system on California highways in key areas such as the Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and the interstate highway connecting Southern California to Nevada.
“We are extremely proud to continue our Level 3 conditionally automated driving leadership and remain at the forefront of innovation in the U.S. market with certification in California. This game-changing system underscores our ambition to lead in safety and technology, and provides unparalleled convenience for our valued customers by giving them back time while safely navigating today’s congested freeways,” said Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dimitris Psillakis.
Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz also received approval to deploy advanced automated driving systems on Nevada’s roads.
Earlier this year, the German carmaker said that it plans to build a network of 10,000 chargers across the globe by 2030, starting with the US and Canada, and then later into Europe, China, and other key markets–signaling it is aggressively expanding its commitment to electric vehicles.
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