Mercedes ‘Drive Pilot’ Gets U.S. Approval, Costs $2,500/year

Mercedes-Benz says it has become the first automaker to receive state approval in the U.S. for the deployment of its SAE Level 3 conditionally automated driving vehicle, known as Drive Pilot.

The system is set to make its on-road debut in California and Nevada in late 2023 with a limited fleet of Level 3 equipped EQS Sedans. The company plans to expand customer deliveries through authorized dealers in early 2024 for MY2024 EQS Sedan and S-Class models.

Level 3 is conditional and does not require drivers to have their hands on the wheel. This looks to be a competitor to Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving beta. But Drive Pilot requires a pre-approved road such as highways for autonomous driving and also must be following another car. The system is restricted right now to 40 mph or slower. You can’t drive on interchanges, bad weather, and daytime only, and no lane changes.

“Drive Pilot is the world’s first and only system for conditionally automated driving with internationally valid type approval,” said Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes‑Benz Group AG and Chief Technology Officer, in a statement on Wednesday.

The system will be offered via subscription through the U.S. Mercedes me connect store, starting at $2,500 USD.

Drive Pilot enables the vehicle to handle dynamic driving tasks up to speeds of 40 mph on suitable freeway sections, particularly during high traffic density. Once activated, the system controls speed and distance, keeping the vehicle within its lane. Safety features include LiDAR, a rear window camera, and microphones for detecting emergency vehicles, among others.

Dimitris Psillakis, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, described Drive Pilot as a “technological game changer” that reinforces the company’s intention to lead in safety and technology. The system is designed with redundancies in steering and braking actuators, as well as an on-board electrical system to ensure safe handover to the driver.

The high-precision positioning system used for operating Drive Pilot is more powerful than conventional GPS systems, capable of determining the vehicle’s position within a range of inches. The system also uses a digital HD map that provides a three-dimensional image of the road and surroundings, updated constantly from backend data centers.

Mercedes-Benz is in ongoing discussions with various state and federal agencies to further adapt the system architecture of Drive Pilot in accordance with evolving standards. The company has also developed special turquoise colored Automated Driving Marker Lights to visually indicate when Drive Pilot is engaged, although there is currently no national regulatory framework in the U.S. to implement this technology.

Check out some demos of Drive Pilot by the media below:

YouTube video

YouTube video