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May 8, 2024
(Updated on
Apr 25, 2024

Mercedes Launches The First Level 3 Self-Driving Car Letting You Take Your Eyes Off The Road

In the race to create fully autonomous vehicles, Mercedes-Benz claimed a majour victory on American soil. This German manufacturer managed to do better than its competitors, among whom was the ambitious Tesla. It is the first in the market to design, offer and deliver Level 3 autonomous cars in the US.

Photo by Jesper Brouwers on Unsplash

So, what does the 'level' of automation mean when it comes to self-driving cars? 

SAE International mentions the levels varying from 0, which implies no automation, to 5, which implies full automation. All levels 0 to 2 describe a variety of categories of driver support features requiring the active human supervision of the driver. Levels 3 through 5 represent the increasing level of automation, with Level 5 being those vehicles that would require no human intervention under any driving condition.

At level 3, it is enabled to drive on its own, but the driver has to take over when prompted.  Mercedes-Benz left its mark with the introduction of its Drive Pilot system, which is implemented under clear weather and with limited speeds on chosen motorways in California and Nevada.

Mercedes-Benz's Rollout

The new Drive Pilot system is available exclusively in the Mercedes EQS and S-Class sedans. What sets this system apart is its ability to let drivers disengage visually and manually—the steering wheel can be let go, and eyes can be taken off the road without the system urging the driver to retake control, provided the driving conditions are met. This is a stark contrast to Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) and Autopilot systems, which, despite their names, do not surpass Level 2 automation as they require driver intervention in all scenarios.

Prior to introducing this technology to the American market, Mercedes-Benz first debuted it in Germany. In December of that year, the company announced that Level 3-capable vehicles would be available. This development was watched carefully, and Fortune just revealed that a customer in California purchased one of these vehicles.

Tesla’s Unfulfilled Promises

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has long been vocal about achieving Level 4 and even Level 5 autonomous driving capabilities. Despite these ambitious claims, Tesla’s current systems have not advanced beyond Level 2. Musk continues to generate excitement with futuristic projections like his "Robotaxi" dream—autonomous cars capable of operating as taxis, which would revolutionize urban transportation. However, these goals remain unrealized, casting a shadow of overpromise on Tesla’s technological endeavours.

The Competition Heats Up

After Mercedes-Benz raises a glass to being the first American automaker to offer a Level 3 driverless vehicle, the other industry heavyweights quickly follow suit. BMW, for example, is set to release its Level 3 self-driving car on German roads by end of 2024. Meanwhile, companies such as Waymo, an autonomous vehicle division of Alphabet Inc., and Cruise, owned by GM, have been actively deploying their vehicles in San Francisco for years now, though at different paces of development and public acceptance of such a mode of transportation.

Meanwhile, something of a vote of optimism toward Level 4 private vehicles "by the end of the decade" was given by Mercedes-Benz CTO Markus Schäfer. That would seem to signal the ongoing evolution of more capable and reliable autonomous systems and potentially to Level 5.

The deployment of Mercedes-Benz's Level 3 autonomous cars in the U.S. is not just a win for the carmaker from the technology perspective but also strategic market penetration—building strong bases for the next phase of autonomous vehicle adoption. And while others like Tesla may grab more headlines with bold predictions, Mercedes-Benz is making substantial inroads that are shaping the landscape of autonomous driving technology.

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