Mercedes EQS And S-Class Gain Level 3 Self-Driving Tech For A Little Over $5,000 In Germany

The future has arrived as Mercedes is the first manufacturer to put a Level 3 semi-autonomous driving system with an “international valid certification” into series production.

Known as Drive Pilot, the system will be available to order in Germany starting on May 17th where it will cost €5,000 ($5,273) on the S-Class and EQS. However, the latter model requires customers to also buy the Driver Assistance Package Plus for €2,430 ($2,563).

While the system isn’t cheap, Drive Pilot allows for “conditional automation” and that means the “system handles all aspects of the driving task while you, as the driver, are available to take over driving if requested.” More importantly, as SAE International notes, drivers are no longer required to constantly supervise the vehicle under certain conditions.

Also Read: Mercedes Wins Race Against Tesla For Level 3 Autonomy Approval, And We’ve Tried It

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In the case of Drive Pilot, those conditions are being stuck in “heavy traffic or congestion situations on suitable motorway sections in Germany up to a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph).” These are typically some of the most stressful driving situations, but Mercedes owners will be able to relax, play games, or even work while the car drives itself.  In effect, it’s a hands-free and ‘eyes off’ experience.

In order to do this, vehicles are outfitted with LiDAR, camera, radar, and ultrasound sensors as well as a high-precision map that is accurate within a centimeter. All of this information allows the vehicle to know exactly where it is and what obstacles are nearby.

Since safety is paramount when it comes to highly automated vehicles, there are multiple redundancies to deal with possible malfunctions. In particular, Mercedes said the “redundant architecture includes the brake system, the steering, the power supply as well as parts of the sensor technology such as those for environment awareness and driving dynamics calculation.”

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There are even more redundancies built into the system, but the key point is that even if a malfunction occurs, the system can still safely handover control of the vehicle to the driver. If the driver doesn’t respond within ten seconds, the system will automatically bring the car to a stop in a way that is safe for both the vehicle and other motorists.

While the system is certainly groundbreaking, a video released by the company revealed it only works on a little over 13,000 km (8,078 miles) of German Autobahns. That’s not much, but the system’s capability will likely expand in the future and Mercedes noted they’re aiming to obtain regulatory approval for use of Drive Pilot in California and Nevada by the end of the year.

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