Mercedes-Benz has become the first car manufacturer to bring SAE Level 3 conditionally automated driving to the United States after Nevada confirmed that the Drive Pilot system complies with state regulations. Following the initial announcement at CES 2023, Mercedes-Benz has received a certificate of compliance in Nevada, which attests that the Drive Pilot system complies with the requirements of Nevada Chapter 482A for Autonomous Vehicles.
Currently, the Drive Pilot option is only available on the 2024 Mercedes EQS and the 2024 S-Class in the United States, with the first vehicles set to be delivered to customers in the second half of 2023. Drive Pilot-equipped vehicles are now legally able to drive themselves on US public freeways in Nevada. However, Level 3 autonomy will only be available in areas of Nevada where it is legal.
Drive Pilot can take over the dynamic driving task in suitable freeway sections and high traffic density areas, but only up to 40 mph (64 km/h). Mercedes-Benz claims that the system possesses the technical capabilities to function at higher speeds, indicating that the speed limit may be raised in the future. Drivers will be alerted to the availability of the system through control buttons located on the steering wheel rim above the thumb recesses.
Drive Pilot uses the surround sensors of the Driving Assistance Package and adds more sensors such as LiDAR, a camera in the rear window, microphones for detecting emergency vehicles, and a road wetness sensor in the wheel well. The system also has redundant steering and braking actuators, as well as a redundant on-board electrical system, ensuring that the vehicle remains maneuverable even if one of these systems fails.
If the driver fails to take back control, the system will brake the vehicle to a standstill in a controlled manner while engaging the hazard warning lights. The Mercedes-Benz emergency call system will then be activated and the doors will be unlocked to allow first responders access to the interior.
After Nevada, California will be the next state to grant approval to Mercedes-Benz's Drive Pilot system. The automaker has already filed certification documents with state authorities and is hoping to be officially approved later this year.