Mercedes-Benz says it has achieved Level 3 automation, which requires less driver input, surpassing the self-driving capabilities of Tesla and other major US automakers
Mercedes-Benz announced it will introduce its Level 3 autonomous driving system in Nevada.
Level 3 requires less driver input, allowing a user to, for example, play videogames 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 made Thursday.
The German automotive company's "Drive Pilot" system is equipped with Level 3 autonomous driving features based on the standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
The feature will be available as an option for the 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQs Sedan models, the company said. A US price point was not disclosed. In Germany, the system costs $5,300 on the S-Class and about $8,000 on the EQS model, according to Auto News Europe.
Unlike a Level 2 system, which requires constant supervision from the driver as the vehicle steers and accelerates, Level 3 automation gives drivers more leeway. The SAE defines Level 3 as a system where the user is not driving when "automated driving features are engaged — even if you are seated in 'the driver's seat.'"
A driver, for example, can move their head and eyes away from the road to talk with a passenger or watch a movie, according to The Drive, an automotive news outlet that tested the Drive Pilot system.
During the demo, the test driver played Tetris and browsed the internet as 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 a moment's notice. This means that a driver cannot fall asleep or obstruct their face while the vehicle is moving. When The Drive's test pilot put a camera in front of his face, Mercedes's autonomous driving system disengaged.
The system is also restricted to certain road conditions, and Mercedes-Benz said that 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 surpass some of its major electric vehicle competitors in the US, including Tesla, Ford, and GM.
Since as far back as 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised to deliver what Tesla calls "Full Self-Driving" features to its vehicles. But its rollout has either been delayed or faced criticism from lawmakers, safety experts, and customers.
Some critics have also accused the company of misleading its customers by calling the company's semi-autonomous driving system "Full Self-Driving."
In November, Musk expanded the "Full Self-Driving Beta" to all North American customers, however, the system is still rated at Level 2, which means the vehicle requires full driver attention.
The feature almost immediately attracted negative media scrutiny with reports of a Tesla Model S in "Full Self-Driving" mode causing an eight-car pileup 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 in use. The accidents have killed 19 people, the outlet reported.
Mercedez-Benz said in its announcement that its technology complies with Nevada state regulations, suggesting that the autonomous system will only be available for customers based in Nevada.
Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Kevin Malone told Insider that the state " allows all automation levels to operate on public streets. Nevada does not issue any permit or license based on an autonomous vehicle's level of automation."
"We want to be clear this is a self-certification. The Nevada DMV does not test or certify vehicles," he said, adding that Mercedes completed the self-certification "out of an abundance of caution."
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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