Mercedes-Benz Ushers in a New Era of Autonomous Driving in California and Nevada

April 21, 2024 – Consumers in California and Nevada have ushered in a new era of autonomous driving, as Mercedes-Benz becomes the first automaker to offer Level 3 self-driving cars to the general public in the United States. Dubbed “Drive Pilot,” this technology permits drivers, under certain conditions, to shift their focus away from the road and engage in other activities.

Currently, Drive Pilot is exclusively available in California and Nevada, where regulatory bodies have authorized the Level 3 autonomous system from Mercedes-Benz. As reported by Fortune, as of April 11th, there were 65 Mercedes vehicles equipped with Drive Pilot for sale in California, with one already sold, marking the birth of the first unsupervised self-driving car in the state.

Unlike companies still offering Level 2 autonomy, such as Tesla, Level 3 allows the driver to divert attention from the road in specific situations, eliminating the need for continuous vehicle monitoring. However, this technology has its limits; for instance, it can only be used on pre-approved routes and is not suitable for highways in other states.

Drive Pilot is currently operable on select highway sections in California and Nevada, specifically during congested times, daytime, and at speeds below 40 miles per hour. Outside these pre-approved routes, such as on highways in other states, drivers must remain vigilant and prepared to take control.

Nonetheless, Mercedes-Benz’s Level 3 system signifies progress in the field of autonomous driving in the US. While companies like Waymo and Cruise possess more advanced Level 4 technology, they have only deployed it for taxi services and not for consumer sales.

Compatible models for the Drive Pilot system include the 2024 EQS and S-Class sedans, with customers able to access the feature through an annual subscription of $2500. It’s worth noting that Mercedes-Benz began selling Level 3 autonomous vehicles in Germany in May 2022, with a three-year membership costing between 5,000 and 7,000 euros in the European market.

To enhance safety and awareness, Mercedes vehicles in autonomous mode display a distinctive turquoise light in their rearview mirrors, headlights, and taillights. Additionally, Drive Pilot requires specific hardware, such as front sensors and a rear windshield camera.

Looking ahead, Mercedes-Benz is investing in the development of Level 4 autonomy, aiming to introduce it to the consumer market by 2030. Level 4 autonomy promises a near fully-autonomous experience, requiring driver intervention only in case of system failures, indicating the technology’s ability to handle most unforeseen road situations safely.

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