The US state of Nevada has approved Mercedes-Benz’s level-three automated driving system for use on public roads under certain driving conditions, as the system complies with state regulations.
Previously only approved for German autobahns, the level-three system will be equipped in Mercedes S-Class and Mercedes EQS cars produced for the US market from model 2024 onwards, with the first examples featuring the technology slated for delivery in the second half of 2023.
Named Mercedes Drive Pilot, the system is capable of taking control over driving at speeds of up to 40mph, guiding the vehicle in its lane, controlling speed and actively reacting to the distance of the vehicle in front. It can also acknowledge traffic and road signs and perform evasive manoeuvres independently.
As the system complies with Nevada Chapter 482A for Autonomous Vehicles, It means Mercedes has become the first car maker to have a level three system officially approved for use on the US market.
“In the modern world, time is one of the most precious commodities, and giving back time to our customers is a core element in our strategy to build the world’s most desirable cars,” said Markus Schäfer, Mercedes’ technology boss.
“Our DRIVE PILOT takes a major step forward in achieving that, and places us at the very forefront of innovation in the crucially important field of automated driving.”
The firm has called the approval the “dawn of a new era”. The technology was approved by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) in October 2021 for use on the country’s 8196 miles of autobahn, before it was formally introduced in May 2022.
At the time, it meant Mercedes cars were the first in the world to be equipped with an “internationally valid” conditionally automated driving system.
The system, called Drive Pilot, is capable of taking over driving at speeds of up to 37mph by controlling speed, distance from the vehicle and front and positioning within a lane.
Mercedes says it will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel and perform “ancillary tasks” on their vehicle’s central infotainment display, such as sorting emails and online shopping.
The system uses lidar sensors, cameras, microphones and a wetness sensor, while road geometry and traffic events are constantly read from a 3D digital map.
The technology automatically reads road signs and responds to unexpected incidents independently, performing evasive and braking manoeuvres. It can also detect the blue lights of emergency vehicles.
It will perform an emergency procedure if the driver doesn’t take back control following urgent prompting, or after an expiration timer is sounded. If the driver does not take back control, the system brings the car to a standstill, switches on the hazard warning lights and unlocks the doors.
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