Mercedes-Benz is the United States' first Level-3 autonomous vehicle manufacturer
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Mercedes-Benz is the United States’ first Level-3 autonomous vehicle manufacturer

Mercedes stated at CES earlier this month that it will be the first vehicle firm to get SAE certification for a Level 3 driver aid system. This was verified by the manufacturer on Thursday when it stated that its Drive Pilot ADAS (automated driving aid system) now meets the standards of Nevada Chapter 482A, which regulates the use of autonomous vehicle technology on the state’s roadways. For the time being, Drive Pilot is the only authorised Level 3 system in the United States.

“An unwavering commitment to innovation has consistently guided Mercedes-Benz from the very beginning,” stated Dimitris Psillakis, President and CEO of MBUSA, in a news release on Thursday. “It is 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 conditionally automated driving in the US market.”

The vehicle would be able to manage “all parts of the driving” when level 3 capabilities, as defined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), were activated, but the driver would still need to be alert enough to quickly take control if required. That’s a significant improvement above today’s Level 2 systems like Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving,” Ford’s Blue Cruise, and GM’s Super Cruise. All of them are basically extra-capable highway cruise controls in which the driver must retain their focus on driving, usually by having their hands on or near the steering wheel, and be accountable for what the ADAS is doing while it is doing it. That’s a big cry from Tesla’s Knight Rider-style ADAS vision and what Level 2 autonomy is really capable of.

According to the business, Mercedes’ Drive Pilot technology can take over bumper-to-bumper crawling tasks up to 40 MPH “on appropriate motorway portions and where there is considerable traffic congestion” without the driver having to maintain their hands on the wheel. When activated, the system performs lane-keeping tasks, follows traffic flow, navigates to destinations entered into the navigation system, and will even respond to “unexpected traffic circumstances and manages them autonomously, e.g. via evasive movements inside the lane or by braking manoeuvres.”

The Drive Pilot system depends on a set of sensors implanted throughout the car to accomplish these feats, including visible cameras, LiDAR arrays, radar and ultrasonic sensors, and audio microphones to keep an ear out for oncoming emergency vehicles. The technology even compares onboard sensor data to what it receives from its GPS to guarantee it knows precisely where it is on the road.

For the time being, Drive Pilot is only available on the 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedan. These are already in production, and the first automobiles are expected to arrive on the Las Vegas strip in the second part of this year.

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