- Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will introduce a Level 3 autonomous driving system in Nevada.
- Level 3 requires less driver input, e.g. users can play video games while driving.
- As of December, Tesla’s self-driving capabilities remain at Level 2, according to US News.
According to an announcement made on Thursday, Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce higher levels of autonomous driving for US customers by the second half of 2023.
The German car company’s “Drive Pilot” system provides Level 3 automated driving capabilities based on standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
The feature will be available as an option on 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQs sedan models, according to the company. Pricing in the US has not been disclosed. According to Auto News Europe, in Germany, the system costs $5,300 for the S-Class and around $8,000 for the EQS model.
Level 2 systems require the driver to constantly monitor the steering and acceleration of the vehicle, while Level 3 automation gives the driver more leeway. The SAE defines Level 3 as a system in which the user is not driving “even if the driver is in the ‘driver’s seat’ when the autonomous driving function is activated.”
For example, according to automotive news outlet The Drive, which tested the Drive Pilot system, drivers can keep their heads and eyes off the road to talk to their passengers or watch a movie.
During the demo, test drivers played Tetris and browsed the Internet while the Mercedes EQS handled all aspects of driving.
However, a Level 3 system must allow the driver to quickly regain control of the vehicle. This means that the driver cannot fall asleep or cover his face while the vehicle is in motion. Test of The Drive Mercedes’ self-driving system was disarmed when his pilot pointed the camera in front of his face.
The system is also limited to certain road conditions, and Mercedes-Benz says its Drive Pilot function only allows the vehicle to go up to 40 miles per hour.
Still, setting a 2023 date to bring Level 3 self-driving systems to customers in Nevada puts Mercedes-Benz on track to overtake major U.S. electric-vehicle competitors such as Tesla, Ford and GM. It looks like you are riding.
Since 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised to bring what Tesla calls “fully self-driving” capabilities to its vehicles. But its rollout has been slow or has faced criticism from lawmakers, safety experts, and customers.
Some critics have accused the company of misleading customers by calling its semi-autonomous driving system “fully autonomous.”
In November, Musk expanded its “fully self-driving beta” to all North American customers, but the system is still rated at Level 2.
The feature quickly drew negative media scrutiny after reports that a Tesla Model S in “fully self-driving” mode caused an eight-car pileup in the San Francisco Bay Area in November.
According to The Intercept, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has investigated 35 crashes since 2016 in which Tesla’s “fully self-driving” or “autopilot” systems were used. The accident killed 19 people, the outlet reported.
Mercedez-Benz said in its announcement that its technology complies with Nevada regulations, suggesting that the self-driving system is only available to Nevada-based customers.
Kevin Malone, a spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, told Insider that the state “allows all levels of automation to operate on public roads. We have not issued any permits or licenses.”
“I would like to clarify that this is a self-certification. The Nevada DMV does not test or certify the vehicle,” he said, adding that Mercedes completed the self-certification “with due care.”
Mercedes-Benz added that it has also submitted certification documents to the state of California.
Spokespeople for Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and SAE did not respond to requests for comment.
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