Mercedes-Benz will start offering a Level 3 self-driving system in Germany later this year, after receiving approval from local authorities last December. However, the automaker wants to achieve similar approval beyond its home market within the current year.
Citing comments made by CEO Ola Kaellenius during a press call on Thursday, Reuters reported that Mercedes is working with officials in both the U.S. and China about certifying its Level 3 system, known as Drive Pilot, and that the automaker wants the system to be available outside of Europe within the year.
On the SAE scale of self-driving capability, Level 3 denotes systems that allow drivers to take their hands and eyes off the steering wheel in certain situations, but are far short of true autonomous driving as the driver still needs to be ready to take back control at any time. All self-driving systems currently available rank at Level 2, as they require constant monitoring from the driver.
Mercedes’ Level 3 system being made available in Germany will function in dense traffic on pre-mapped stretches of highway, at speeds up to 37 mph, with the system handling steering, acceleration, and braking. It will initially be offered in the S-Class and EQS models, with Mercedes previously announcing that it will be available in the first half of the year.
Volvo is developing a similar system, known as Ride Pilot, which the automaker wants to launch in California first before expanding it to other markets. Volvo hasn’t said in what conditions Ride Pilot will function, but said the first tests on California highways will start in mid-2022.
Honda has been offering a Level 3 system for highways in Japan since 2021, though the system is extremely limited in the conditions in which it will function, particularly its speed band.