What is Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot?

Liz Kim | May 03, 2021

Drive Pilot is Mercedes-Benz’s new advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) that literally takes semi-autonomous driving to the next level. It’s a Level 3 ADAS that allows you to take your eyes off the road and let the car handle all of the driving without continual supervision. But there are many limitations, and the system can operate only under certain conditions.

2021 Mercedes S-Class Silver Side View at Speed

What is the Current (May 2021) State of Self-Driving Cars? - Find the best Mercedes-Benz deals!

While a fully self-driving car is still unavailable to consumers, carmakers offer vehicles of varying abilities that hint at actual autonomous driving in the future.

Currently, cars sold in America are limited to hands-on (Hyundai Highway Driving Assist) or hands-free (Ford BlueCruise) Level 2 ADAS. The next echelon, Level 3 autonomy, works like hands-free Level 2 ADAS and allows you to divert your attention to tasks other than driving. However, when the vehicle requests it, you must take over the driving at any time. 

With Level 3, you still can’t stretch out for an afternoon nap on the way home, but you can enjoy the view out of the car, play with the infotainment system, or look at your phone – as long as you’re ready to take over when prompted by the technology. 

Audi was first to develop Level 3 ADAS, but without regulatory approval, the automaker canceled its Traffic Jam Pilot system. Honda uses that same name for a new Level 3 system in its Legend sedan, but the technology is available only in its home market of Japan and in limited quantities. Soon, Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot will debut on German highways in the redesigned 2021 S-Class and new 2022 EQS flagship sedans. 

Mercedes developed Drive Pilot for use in America, but U.S. regulators have not yet approved Level 3 ADAS.

How Does Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot Work? - Find the best Mercedes-Benz deals!

Drive Pilot uses radar, lidar, a road moisture sensor, microphones, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras to operate. The system automatically gauges weather and road conditions to ensure a proper operating situation exists, maintains and adjusts vehicle speed, changes lanes to pass slower vehicles, and senses merging traffic and lanes that come to an end. 

Initially, Drive Pilot works at speeds up to 37 mph (60 km/h). Future software updates will increase the speed at which the system can operate.

Mercedes Drive Pilot Requirements and Limitations - Find the best Mercedes-Benz deals!

Drive Pilot works under the following conditions: 

  • In heavy to moderate traffic
  • In a pre-defined geo-fenced area
  • On a pre-approved road based on navigation data
  • On a physically divided highway
  • On a highway with machine-detectable lane markings

You can’t use Drive Pilot to drive around town; Mercedes limits its use to specific highways. Road features like tunnels, toll booths, and traffic control devices will disengage the system. And the system won’t work in most inclement weather conditions.

The Driver’s Role When Using Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot - Find the best Mercedes-Benz deals!

When a driving situation meets the above conditions, the Mercedes asks if you want to engage Drive Pilot. If you agree, you take the role of a “fallback-ready” user. 

You can take your attention off the road in this role, but the car constantly monitors the driver to ensure they don’t doze off. If the driver becomes unresponsive to the car’s request to pay attention, the car will pull over and stop. Further non-responsiveness will also alert first responders to summon help.

The automaker says customer training in safely using Drive Pilot will be of paramount importance. Mercedes plans to provide detailed, in-person training at the point of purchase, whether that’s at the dealership or home. Customers will also have access to written, graphical, and video content explaining how to use the technology.

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With Drive Pilot, Mercedes-Benz states that it “envisions a future with fewer traffic accidents, less stress, and greater enjoyment and productivity.”

Drive Pilot will most likely be available as an optional feature. When U.S. regulators approve the technology for use in the U.S. market, Mercedes will unlock the system through an over-the-air software update. At the time of this writing, Mercedes has yet to define Drive Pilot availability or pricing. 

So, for the time being, you still need to pay close attention to the road. But it likely won’t be long before you can spend your commute engrossed in TikTok videos rather than fuming about traffic and the questionable driving skills of your fellow motorists.

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