At CES earlier in January, Mercedes announced it would become the first automaker to achieve SAE certification for a Level 3 driver assistance system. It became official on Thursday when the automaker confirmed that its Drive Pilot ADAS (automated driver assistance system) now complies with the requirements of Nevada Chapter 482A, which governs the use of autonomous vehicle technology on state roads. This makes Drive Pilot the only Tier 3 legal system in the United States at this time.
«An unwavering commitment to innovation has consistently guided Mercedes-Benz from the very beginning,» said MBUSA President and CEO Dimitris Psillakis in a Thursday press release. «It’s a very proud moment for everyone to continue this leadership and celebrate this monumental achievement as the first automotive company to be certified for Level 3 Conditional Automated Driving in the US market.»
Level 3 capabilities, as defined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), would allow the vehicle to handle «all aspects of driving» when engaged, but still require the driver to be attentive enough to take quickly control if necessary. It’s a big step up from the Tier 2 systems we see today, such as Tesla’s «Full Self-Driving,» Ford’s Blue Cruise, and GM’s Super Cruise. All of these are essentially extra-capable highway cruise control where the driver must maintain their focus on driving, usually keeping their hands on or at least near the steering wheel, and be in charge of what ADAS is doing while driving. ‘he does it. It is far from Knight Rider-esque ADAS outlook that Tesla is selling and what Level 2 autonomy is actually capable of.
Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system can, «on suitable sections of highway and where traffic density is high,» according to the company, handle bumper-to-bumper crawling tasks at up to 40 MPH without the driver needing to keep their hands on the wheel. When engaged, the system handles lane-keeping tasks, follows traffic flow, navigates to destinations programmed into the navigation system and even reacts to «unforeseen traffic situations and handles them independently, for example by evasive maneuvers in the lane or by braking manoeuvres.»
To achieve these feats, the Drive Pilot system relies on a suite of sensors integrated throughout the vehicle, including visual cameras, LiDAR networks, radar and ultrasonic sensors and audio microphones to stay tuned to vehicles. approaching emergencies. The system even compares data from its on-board sensors with what it receives from its GPS to ensure it knows exactly where it really is on the road.
Drive Pilot is only available on the 2024 S-Class and EQS sedan at this time. These are already in production and the first cars are expected to hit the Vegas Strip in the second half of this year.
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