Mercedes-Benz has invited journalists to experience their new Drive Pilot system, which is the first SAE Level 3 system approved for sale in Europe and the US. Drive Pilot offers conditionally automated driving at speeds up to 40 mph in traffic jam situations on highways. Unlike Level 2 systems, Drive Pilot allows the driver to be hands-free and eyes-off the road, allowing them to engage in other activities like playing games or watching a movie. The system is only available in California and Nevada and can only be used when specific conditions are met, such as a vehicle in front, readable road markings, clear weather, and precise GPS positioning.
Drive Pilot is a significant advancement in autonomous driving technology as Mercedes takes full legal liability when the system is activated. This is a major departure from Level 2 systems which still hold the driver responsible. Mercedes has been offering Drive Pilot to customers in Germany for over a year and so far there have been zero accidents. The system relies on lidar sensors located in the grille, and it can only be used on freeways that have been mapped by Mercedes. The company has already driven and mapped over 100,000 miles in California using Drive Pilot and continues to expand its mapping efforts.