The Mercedes-Benz multi-sensor Drive Pilot system has been named one of Time magazine’s Best Inventions of 2023, as “A self-driving first”.
Time writer Jeff Wilser said: “Current cars’ ‘self-driving’ modes still require hands near the wheel and eyes on the road. But with an advanced new multi-sensor system called Drive Pilot, Mercedes-Benz’s 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedans are the first cars certified for Level 3 self-driving in the U.S. (in California and Nevada). It means that under certain conditions (mainly highway traffic jams, with low speeds and a well-mapped road), you can completely cede control to the vehicle.”
Drive Pilot will be available in the U.S. market as an option for model year 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS Sedan models, with the first cars delivered to customers in late 2023. The state of Nevada already confirmed the compliance of the system with state regulations in January 2023, and Mercedes-Benz says it has the ambition to further expand availability to additional markets in the future.
Markus Schäfer, member of the board of management of Mercedes-Benz Group and chief technology officer responsible for development and procurement, said:” Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot is the world’s only SAE Level 3 system with internationally valid type approval. It builds on a very robust foundation, setting new industry standards. Drive Pilot, uses a highly sophisticated vehicle architecture based on redundancy with a multitude of sensors enabling comfortable and safe conditionally automated driving. The certification by the authorities in California and in Nevada once again confirms that redundancy is the safe and thus the right approach.”
During a conditionally automated journey, Drive Pilot allows the driver to take their mind off the traffic and focus on certain secondary activities. When Drive Pilot is active, applications can be enabled on the vehicle’s integrated central display that are otherwise blocked while driving. On suitable freeway sections and where there is high traffic density, Drive Pilot can offer to take over the dynamic driving task, up to speeds of 40 mph.
The control buttons required for this are located on the steering wheel rim, on the left and right above the thumb recesses. Once conditions are suitable, the system indicates availability on the control buttons. When the driver activates Drive Pilot, the system controls the speed and distance, and guides the vehicle within its lane. The route profile, events occurring on the route and traffic signs are correspondingly taken into consideration. The system also reacts to unexpected traffic situations and handles them independently through evasive maneuvers within the lane or by braking maneuvers for example.
If the driver fails to take back control even after increasingly urgent prompting and expiration of the takeover time (e.g., due to a severe health problem), the system brakes the vehicle to a standstill in a controlled manner while engaging the hazard warning lights. Once the vehicle has come to a standstill, the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system is activated, and the doors are unlocked to ensure the vehicle is accessible for first responders.