In a significant achievement, Mercedes-Benz has secured approval from California regulators to offer for sale or lease vehicles equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving technology, providing drivers the ability to disengage from the wheel and their focus from the road. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has issued a permit for Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot system, subject to explicit conditions and designated road usage.
By utilizing the Drive Pilot system, drivers of Mercedes-Benz vehicles have the freedom to engage in non-driving activities like watching videos and texting, while the vehicle autonomously navigates the road. Nonetheless, strict adherence to the prescribed guidelines is essential, as the legal responsibility for any accidents lies with Mercedes-Benz instead of the driver.
Enabling these capabilities, the Drive Pilot system integrates a network of sensors strategically placed within the vehicle. This sensor network includes visual cameras, LiDAR arrays, radar/ultrasound sensors, and audio microphones. By utilizing these sensors, the system performs multiple functions, including detecting nearby emergency vehicles and accurately determining the vehicle’s position on the road using sensor and GPS data.
Usage of the Drive Pilot system is restricted to high-traffic situations during daylight hours, with speeds capped at 40 miles per hour. Additionally, drivers must remain available to reassume control, meaning they cannot retreat to the back seat for rest. An in-car monitor tracks the driver’s engagement, and the driver must take over if the vehicle exceeds 40 miles per hour, encounters an emergency vehicle, faces inclement weather, or encounters other scenarios where the Drive Pilot system cannot autonomously handle the situation.