Customers can now purchase cars equipped with the Drive Pilot system

Graham Hope

September 28, 2023

3 Min Read
Mercedes

Mercedes’ Level 3 hands-off driving tech is finally available for customers to buy in the United States. 

The “hands-off, eyes off” Drive Pilot system was approved for use in Nevada at the start of 2023, with California following suit in June.

But those keen to try the most advanced automated driving system currently available in America have had to wait until now to get their hands on cars equipped with it.

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According to the automaker, the first models in Nevada and California to be offered with the tech will be a limited fleet of EQS ‘Drive Pilot: First Class’ sedans.  

These will be followed by additional EQS versions in early 2024, plus S-Class models, too.

Drive Pilot essentially hands over the role of driving to the car in certain conditions and specific locations (the Operational Design Domain), including in heavy traffic on certain sections of roadway at speeds of up to 37 mph. 

This conditional automation frees up the driver to perform other tasks, including making use of some of the applications on the car’s central display, which are otherwise blocked when a human is driving – hence why it is considered “hands off, eyes off.”

In the sliding scale of automation, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, this is considered Level 3 – the vehicle is in control, although the driver must take over if requested.

Related:Mercedes Self-Driving Tech Approved in Nevada

It is fundamentally different from the Level 2 systems offered by Tesla (Autopilot and Full Self Driving), General Motors (Super Cruise) and Ford (BlueCruise). While they offer occasional automation, they are considered “hands off, eyes on” because the human driver must be ready to intervene at all times.

Drive Pilot is facilitated by a vast array of technology that includes digital HD mapping, plus lidar sensors, radar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras and road moisture sensors, and is backed up by redundant steering and braking actuators and a redundant electrical system to ensure safety in the event of any system failures.

Mercedes customers who want Drive Pilot will have to buy a compatible EQS or S-Class – the hardware required cannot be retro-fitted – and must subscribe to the software, which costs from $2,500 in the first year. Activation is via the Mercedes me connect store, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that the coverage area is still limited to certain roads and freeways in the two states.  

“Drive Pilot is a technological game changer and incredible leap forward in the pursuit of conditionally automated driving,” said Dimitris Psillakis, CEO of Mercedes USA. “This ground-breaking system reinforces our intention to lead in safety and technology while giving precious time back to our customers during heavy traffic situations.”

Related:Mercedes’ ‘Hands-off, Eyes-off’ Tech OK’d in California

While Nevada and California are leading the way in America, the U.S. is still some way behind Germany in terms of Drive Pilot. Mercedes made it available on production cars in its home market in May of 2022.

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About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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