Mercedes-Benz is poised to become the first automaker to introduce an SAE-certified Level 3 autonomous driving system in the United States. Its Drive Pilot feature will debut on American roads within months.
Drive Pilot allows hands-free driving when activated, surpassing competitor systems stuck at Level 2 autonomy like Tesla’s Autopilot. Mercedes confirmed it will launch first in California and Nevada by end of 2023.
The service requires a $2,500 annual subscription starting next year. That unlocks features like web browsing and YouTube viewing on the main display when Drive Pilot is engaged.
Mercedes boasts Drive Pilot offers accuracy within inches using a combo of lidar, cameras, radar, HD maps, and ultrasonic sensors. This allows safe autonomous operation at up to 40 mph, expanding to 70 mph eventually.
The differentiating factor versus rivals is SAE Level 3 certification verifying Drive Pilot meets strict technical requirements to handle driving without human oversight when conditions allow.
Mercedes promises regular backend updates to enhance Drive Pilot’s capabilities over time. The automaker achieved Level 3 approval in Germany last year and is now beating others in introducing mature autonomy in the US.
The steep subscription cost will limit adoption of Drive Pilot at first. But by being first to market, Mercedes has bragging rights in inching toward true self-driving long before competitors.
For those eager to experience advanced autonomy on US roads, Mercedes is about to make that a reality. Drive Pilot represents a paradigm shift, if only available initially to wealthy early adopters willing to pay a premium.