Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will introduce its Level 3 autonomous driving system in Nevada.
Level 3 requires less driver input, allowing a user, for example, to play video games while driving.
As of December, Tesla’s self-driving feature remains at Level 2, according to US News.
Mercedes-Benz plans to introduce a higher level of autonomous driving for its US customers by the second half of 2023, according to an announcement Thursday.
The German car company’s “Drive Pilot” system is equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving functions based on standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
The feature will be available as an option for 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQs Sedan models, the company said. A US price was not disclosed. In Germany, the system costs $5,300 on the S-Class and around $8,000 on the EQS model, according to Auto News Europe.
Unlike a Level 2 system, which requires constant monitoring by the driver as the vehicle turns and accelerates, Level 3 automation gives drivers more leeway. The SAE defines Level 3 as a system in which the user does not drive when “automated driving features are enabled, even if you are seated in the driver’s seat”.
A driver, for example, can take their head and eyes away from the road to talk with a passenger or watch a movie, according to The Drive, an automotive outlet that has tested the Drive Pilot system.
During the demo, the test driver played Tetris and browsed the internet while the Mercedes EQS handled all aspects of driving.
However, a Level 3 system still requires a driver to be able to regain control of the vehicle at any time. This means that a driver cannot fall asleep or cover their face while the vehicle is in motion. When The Drive’s test driver placed a camera in front of his face, Mercedes’ self-driving system disengaged.
The system is also limited to certain road conditions, and Mercedes-Benz said its Drive Pilot feature will only allow the vehicle to go up to 40 mph.
Still, by setting a 2023 date to bring a Level 3 autonomous system to Nevada customers, Mercedes-Benz appears to be on track to outperform some of its major EV competitors in the US, including Tesla, Ford and GM.
Since 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised to provide his vehicles with what Tesla calls “fully self-driving” features. But its rollout has been either delayed or criticized by lawmakers, security experts and customers.
Some critics have also accused the company of misleading its customers by calling the company’s self-driving system “Full Self-Driving”.
In November, Musk announced the “fully self-driving beta” for North American customers, however, the system is still rated at Level 2, US News reported, meaning the vehicle requires the driver’s full attention.
The feature almost immediately drew negative media attention with reports of a Tesla Model S in “Full Self-Driving” mode causing an eight-car pile-up in the San Francisco Bay Area in November.
According to The Intercept, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has investigated 35 crashes since 2016 in which Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” or “Autopilot” system was used. The crashes killed 19 people, the outlet reported.
Mercedez-Benz said in its announcement that its technology complies with Nevada state regulations, suggesting the autonomous system would only be available to Nevada-based customers. Mercedes-Benz added that it has also filed certification documents in California.
Spokespersons for Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and SAE did not respond to a request for comment.
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