Mercedes' new Drive Pilot is quite similar to other competing solutions like Tesla's Autopilot and General Motor's SupeCruise, but there are a few key differences that set it apart. The most notable one is that Mercedes will take full legal responsibility if something happens with the Drive Pilot turned on.
The interesting bit is that Drive Pilot is already available and is approved by the German government and the company is pretty close to legalizing it in Nevada and California in the US. By the end of this year, the car maker hopes to get Level 3 autonomous driving certification in the US, making it the first brand to obtain it.
Mercedes' Drive Pilot is available on some S-Class and EQS models and will take control of the steering wheel, speed and brakes. But the key difference that would make the Level 3 certification possible is the 10-second warning to the driver. No other manufacturer provides such a long warning for the driver to take control.
In addition to its advanced imagery system, LiDAR sensors, GPS, Galileo and GLONASS systems for navigation, Mercedes' cars use microphones and standard cameras to detect emergency lights on ambulances and fire trucks and hands over control to the driver. This is necessary for the Drive Pilot to be compliant with traffic laws and obtain the much-needed Level 3 autonomous system.
Mercedes assures us the system is fully capable of handling situations like sudden traffic halting, detecting debris on the road or aggressive cut-ins. Moreover, drivers are legally allowed to use their smartphones with Drive Pilot engaged.
There are still some restrictions, though. Drive Pilot is allowed in Germany only on roads without traffic light stops, roundabouts or construction zones and it works only at speeds up to 60 km/h. Mercedes has already mapped all German roads and most of those in Nevada and California. Also, if the system detects subpar weather conditions, overhead obstructions, tunnels, emergency vehicles (as already noted) or if it becomes too dark, it will disengage Drive Pilot.