Mercedes wants to have its Drive Pilot system available in the US
Level 3 systems allow the driver to be inattentive in certain situations
Volvo also plans to launch a similar system in California by the end of the year
Automakers are racing to be the first to introduce new driver assistance technologies to market, and Mercedes-Benz could become the first to offer a level 3 autonomous driving system in the United States.
Indeed, the German automaker received approval for its Drive Pilot system in its native country back in December, and it has been testing it in the US while talks with the authorities are underway in hopes of a release as soon as this year.
This system will be available in the S-Class and the electric EQS. Drive Pilot currently allows drivers to let the car take care of all driving duties on certain German highways at speeds less than 60 km/h (37 mph), in heavy traffic for example. This means that the driver can do other activities while the car is going down the road, for example watching movies of sending e-mails.
Level 3 systems are an important step in the development of self-driving vehicles, since it is the first one to actually be considered autonomous by its definition, which is that the driver can let the car take full control, but has to be ready to take it back when prompted by the system. This creates some questions, notably regarding the liability in case of an accident.
Mercedes-Benz is not alone in this race, far from it, since BMW had expected to be the first to have its level 3 system reach American roads with the new 7-Series arriving later in the year. Stellantis will introduce their version of this system in 2024, since the two companies have worked together on its development.
Honda has already marketed such a system in Japan and Audi was the first to build a vehicle with the necessary capabilities with the 2017 A8, but it has since decided to not activate the feature in Europe and North-America.
Another automaker who wants to have level 3 autonomous vehicles on US roads by the end of the year is Volvo, who plans to test its Ride Pilot system in California before its launch in the upcoming electric flagship SUV that will arrive for the 2023 model year.
The Swedish automaker is reluctant to designate this system with the SAE levels because they can create confusion for customers, but the description of its functions sounds very close to Mercedes’ system.