Mercedes: First legal hands-free kit coming this year in the S-class, EQS

The Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot System tested with a 2923 EQS electric sedanMercedes will offer the first legal self-driving system this year, allowing drivers to take their attention off the road and check their phone under certain conditions.

The German automaker has made two major, simultaneous announcements about its Drive Pilot software: the system has completed regulatory approval in the state of Nevada and will be available for sale on the 2024 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and EQS sedans.

See also: Self-driving cars – everything you need to know

Wait, isn’t there already self-driving technology for sale?

No car sold in the US in 2023 will offer true self-driving technology.

A handful allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel in limited conditions. But so far, none have allowed drivers to take their eyes off the road.

Automakers use a five-level system to describe their efforts to build self-driving cars. A level 1 system can support a driving task. A lane centering system that can make slight steering adjustments, for example to help keep a car centered in its lane, would qualify as Level 1. A theoretical Level 5 system would not require a steering wheel or pedals.

The highest system currently for sale is Level 2. These systems combine more than one system. For example, they could combine lane centering technology and radar cruise control that can maintain a certain distance from the road ahead.

Some, like GM’s Super Cruise or Tesla’s Full Self-Driving, even let the driver take their hands off the wheel for a few moments. But they make sure that the driver still pays attention to the road. They disengage and prompt the driver to take over if he looks away.

Yes, YouTube is full of videos of drivers trying to trick the systems and keep them running without a human monitoring them. But they’re designed to prevent that, and safety advocates have sounded the alarm that some automakers are marketing them as if they’re more capable than them.

At least one recent survey has shown that many drivers already view their Level 2 systems as more powerful than they are, eating and checking email behind the wheel.

What is different about Drive Pilot

Drive Pilot differs in that the driver can safely look away. It is the first Level 3 system to receive regulatory approval.

“On suitable motorway sections and in high traffic density, DRIVE PILOT can offer to take over the dynamic driving task,” says Mercedes, up to a speed of 60 km/h. When the system is on, Mercedes says, the driver can “distract themselves from traffic and focus on specific ancillary activities.”

Why “certain” activities? Because some of the most obvious ways, like texting, may still be illegal under other laws.

Mercedes announced earlier this month that Nevada would soon allow the use of Drive Pilot on its roads. It now says the system has completed all legal action and is legal on Nevada roads.

Or would it be. if you could buy it

Coming on two high end cars

You can buy Drive Pilot this year. Mercedes will offer the system for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan and EQS sedan in 2024, “with the first cars being delivered to customers in the second half of 2023.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Mercedes luxury ladder, the S-Class is the brand’s signature ultra-luxury sedan. As Mercedes’ top model in the US, it starts at $114,500 for 2023. The most opulent models often cost over $200,000. Mercedes has not announced prices for 2024, then Drive Pilot will appear.

The German luxury brand is currently building an electrically powered counterpart to most of its gas vehicles. For the S-Class, that’s the EQS sedan — an all-electric super-luxe sedan with a range of up to 350 miles. It’s as luxurious as the S-Class and arguably high-tech, with what may be the most advanced air filter system ever fitted to a car, and high-tech touches like a ‘nap mode’ that we’re assuming is associated with Drive Pilot not working .

May come to California soon

Nevada residents may not be the only ones who can use Drive Pilot for long. Mercedes says it has “ambitions to expand to California later this year with certification documents already on file” with state regulators. The state has not commented on the likelihood of approval.