Mercedes-Benz claims it is the first and only automotive OEM to bring SAE Level 3 autonomous driving to the U.S. in standard production vehicles.
Nevada will be the first state to confirm the compliance of the system with state regulations, specifically the requirements of Nevada Chapter 482A for autonomous vehicles, the company said. The technology, called Drive Pilot, allows drivers to hand over driving tasks to the vehicle under certain conditions.
(Learn more about the levels of autonomous driving on Globalspec.com)
Mercedes-Benz said it plans to expand its autonomous driving capabilities to California later this year with certification documents already filed with the state. Drive Pilot will be available in U.S. markets as an option for model year 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS sedan models. The first cars will be delivered in the second half of 2023.
Where it is used
The Level 3 autonomous driving capability can be used on suitable freeway sections where there is high traffic density. The Drive Pilot can take over the dynamic driving task of speeds up to 40 mph. Control buttons needed for this are located in the steering wheel rim, on the left and right above the thumb recesses.
When activated, the system controls the speed and distance and can guide the car in a highway lane. The system also reacts to unexpected traffic situations and handles them independently through evasive maneuvers in the lane or by braking maneuvers.
Why it is important
The rollout of this Level 3 autonomous system comes after Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen removed their support for the autonomous joint venture Argo AI.
Ford has decided to shift its capital spending from Level 4 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) being developed by Argo AI to internally developed L2+/L3 automated technology. As a result, Argo AI was closing its doors and VW said it would pursue future technology through Intel’s Mobileye.
Additionally, Stellantis N.V. late in 2022 said it would acquire aiMotive, a maker of autonomous software. The technology from aiMotive would work with Stellantis’ STLA AutoDrive platform that will offer Level 2, 2+ and 3 autonomous capabilities.
With Mercedes-Benz now moving forward with Level 3 capabilities, it shows a trend among automotive OEMs that believe these levels of automation are easier to reach than the full automation found at Level 4 and 5.
The Drive Pilot features numerous sensors for safety and conditional automated driving such as lidar, a camera in the rear window and microphones for detecting emergency vehicles. Other features include:
- Road wetness sensor in the wheel well
- Redundant steering and braking actuators
- A redundant on-board electrical system
- Emergency controlled braking
- Emergency call system and automated door unlocks for first-responders
Another system of the Drive Pilot is the high-precision positioning system that Mercedes-Benz said is more powerful than conventional GPS systems. This provides a digital HD map and 3D image of the road and the surroundings with information on road geometry, route characteristics, traffic signs and special traffic events.
The maps are different from standard navigation maps due to the centimeter accuracy rather than meter range found in other models, the company said. The map is stored in backend data centers, so it is updated constantly for accurate positioning independent of factors on the car such as shadows or dirty sensors.