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Mercedes-Benz launched sales of its Drive Pilot system in Germany yesterday. The system is capable of operating at SAE Level 3 autonomy and can be ordered for the company’s S-Class and all-electric EQS models.
Mercedes’ system was approved by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) for Level 3 autonomy in December 2021. The approval allows Drive Pilot to take over driving in certain areas and at speeds of up to 60 km/h, around 37 mph, as long as someone is in the driver’s seat and prepared to take control of the vehicle at any time.
“Responsible handling of future technologies such as conditional automated driving is the key to acceptance among customers and in society,” Britta Seeger, a member of Mercedes-Benz Group AG’s Board of Management, said. “With Drive Pilot, we have developed an innovative technology that, thanks to redundancies with many sensors, enables safe operation and gives the valuable asset ‘time’ back to the customer.”
The Drive Pilot system includes radar, LiDAR and cameras, as well as some ultrasonic and moisture sensors. The redundant architecture of the system extends to include the brake system, steering, power supply and parts of the sensor technology.
Drive Pilot is able to take control the speed of the vehicle and guide it within its lane, while also taking into account the route profile, events occuring on the route and traffic signs. The redundant architecture means that if the system malfunctions, Drive Pilot will handover control to the driver or perform an emergency stop if the driver doesn’t take over in time.
The system is available in the S-Class for €5,000, around $5,250, and in the EQS for €7,813, around $8,200. Mercedes hopes to obtain approval to roll out the system in California and Nevada by the end of the year.
In March 2021, the SAE clarified its autonomous driving level definitions. The chart below summarizes those revised definitions. Mercedes is the first company to roll out a Level 3 autonomous system for consumers. Tesla’s Autopilot provides Level 2 autonomy.