Mercedes-Benz has announced that it has secured approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to sell cars with Level 3 self-driving capabilities to customers in the Golden State, becoming the second state to approve the system, following Nevada’s approval in January.
The approval is for the company’s Drive Pilot system, which allows drivers to legally take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road but must still be available to resume control as needed. This follows the same protocol established in Nevada, where the system was first approved earlier this year. With this milestone, Mercedes-Benz becomes the first automaker to have its Level 3 automated vehicles approved in California, demonstrating a significant advancement in the deployment of autonomous vehicle technology.
However, it’s important to note that the Drive Pilot can only operate on designated stretches of highway during daylight hours at speeds up to 40 mph. Key areas such as the Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego and the interstate highway connecting Southern California to Nevada are among the roads that qualify.
The Drive Pilot system will be available as an option on 2024-model year Mercedes EQS and S-Class sedans, with deliveries expected to begin later in the year.
“Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot is the world’s only SAE Level 3 system with internationally valid type approval,” Mercedes CTO Markus Schäfer said in a statement. “It builds on a very robust foundation, setting new industry standards. Drive Pilot uses a highly sophisticated vehicle architecture based on redundancy with a multitude of sensors enabling comfortable and safe conditionally automated driving. The certification by the authorities in California and in Nevada once again confirms that redundancy is the safe and thus the right approach”.
The introduction of Level 3 autonomous vehicles from Mercedes-Benz in California represents a significant step forward in the broader adoption of self-driving technology. As more states follow the examples set by Nevada and California, the landscape of automotive travel in the United States could change substantially in the years to come.