Mercedes-Benz announced on Thursday that its new Drive Pilot Level 3 self-driving technology has received regulatory certification in Germany. The approval is based on the internationally binding UN Regulation 157 on automated lane-keeping systems, which means Mercedes will be able to sell the technology worldwide if individual governments agree.
Level 3 on the SAE self-driving capability scale applies to systems that allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road in certain situations, but fall short of true autonomous driving because the driver must always be ready to regain control. Drive Pilot, according to Mercedes, will operate in congested traffic on pre-mapped highway segments at speeds up to 37 mph, with the system handling steering, acceleration, and braking.
Mercedes expects to launch Drive Pilot on the S-Class sedan in the first half of 2022, after receiving authorization from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA). The German car maker also said that the regulatory permission applies to the EQS electric sedan as well, but it didn’t disclose when the system would be available on the EV.
Drive Pilot expands on the sensor suite included in the S-Class Driver Assistance Package by including lidar, as well as a camera in the back window and microphones that detect incoming emergency vehicles’ lights and sirens, according to Mercedes. According to the company, it also includes redundant steering, braking, and electrical systems.
The German Road Traffic Act of 2017 established a legal foundation for Level 3 systems, but the particular regulations that enabled Drive Pilot to be certified did not take effect until the beginning of 2021, according to Mercedes.
If the driver fails to regain control when prompted, the car will come to a halt and turn on its hazard lights, according to Mercedes. In the event of a medical emergency, the Drive Pilot system will also make an emergency call and open the doors and windows to grant first responders access, according to the automaker.
Mercedes stated that Drive Pilot will be available on 8,196 kilometers of highway in Germany at first. Test drives are also underway in the United States and China, though the company did not specify when Drive Pilot would be available in those areas.
Other automakers are starting to put out Level 3 technologies as well. After receiving regulatory approval in Japan, Honda introduced its own version of the Legend sedan (previously known as the Acura RLX in the United States) earlier this year.
BMW also plans to debut a Level 3 system created in collaboration with Intel’s Mobileye business on the next-generation 7 Series, with availability eventually spreading to the 5 Series, X5, X7, and iX electric SUV.