Mercedes EQS EV may soon allow hands-free, eyes off the road

A limited number of U.S. Mercedes-Benz EV drivers will soon have access to Drive Pilot, a driver-assistance system that Mercedes claims will let drivers take their eyes off the road in certain situations.

Drive Pilot promises to advance self-driving capability because it’s what Mercedes claims is an SAE Level 3 system offering “conditionally automated driving.” In this case, that means drivers can take their hands off the wheel at low speeds on pre-mapped highways, but also take their eyes off the road—something that isn’t allowed with Level 2 systems.

Drive Pilot launched in Germany last year, but this week Mercedes announced that it had received regulator approval to deploy the system in California and Nevada. With that regulatory hurdle cleared, what Mercedes calls the “production-ready” version of Drive Pilot will appear later this year, starting with a “limited fleet” of EQS cars, followed by a broader rollout in early 2024.

Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot

Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot

According to a Mercedes press release, Drive Pilot will be installed on 2024-model-year versions of both the EQS and the gasoline S-Class sedan and activated through the Mercedes Me Connect app store. Because Drive Pilot has only received formal approval in California and Nevada, cars equipped with the system will only be sold through participating dealers in those states.

Pricing starts at $2,500 for an annual subscription. Mercedes claims a subscription-based model is more appropriate because it offers added flexibility for customers. If an EQS or S-Class owner moves to another state where the system isn’t approved, or to any area without the mapped highways necessary for the system to operate, they can simply stop paying the subscription, Mercedes says.

Drive Pilot isn’t just software though. It includes additional sensors on top of what’s already offered in the Driver Assistance Package for the EQS sedan and S-Class. They include lidar, a camera in the rear window, microphones for detecting the sirens from emergency vehicles, and a road-wetness sensor in a wheel well. Drive Pilot-equipped cars also have redundant steering and braking hardware, plus large buttons on the steering wheel to activate and deactivate the system.

Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot

Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot

Such a system fits the personality of the EQS, which has been a flagship for tech from the start. Mercedes has teased that Drive Pilot is on the way for other models as well—like potentially a smaller production EV based on the Concept CLA-Class recently shown at the 2023 Munich auto show.

Tesla’s driver-assistance systems have attracted a lot of attention from regulators. Early this year the NHTSA pointed out that system posed “an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

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