Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot Triumphs In Road Test Against Tesla Autopilot

October 2nd, 2023 by


In a recent evaluation, a Wall Street Journal reviewer had the opportunity to test Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot advanced driver-assist system (ADAS) in Los Angeles. This technology represents a Level 3 automation system, making it the first of its kind to receive state certification in the United States. At Level 3, drivers are legally allowed to divert their attention from the road and remove their hands from the wheel under specific conditions, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Drive Pilot is set to become available next year, offered through an upfront subscription fee of $2,500. However, it comes with its own set of requirements. For the system to engage, the vehicle’s speed must be 40 mph or lower, the weather conditions should be dry and sunny, the road must be well-marked, and there should be a vehicle ahead to follow. As long as these conditions are met, the driver can engage in various activities such as watching videos, playing games, messaging, or browsing the internet while the car takes care of the driving.

When the vehicle’s speed exceeds 40 mph, Drive Pilot disengages, and the driver must manually reactivate the ADAS systems. Indicators will signal when Drive Pilot becomes available again.

However, the reviewer pointed out some challenges with the system. To comply with SAE and European regulations, the driver must perform additional button-pushing tasks as the vehicle enters and exits what the software developers refer to as the Operational Design Domain. While these extra clicks are necessary for regulatory compliance, they can be cumbersome and non-optimal for the driver.

Additionally, drivers can look down at their devices but are not allowed to close their eyes. The biometric system will monitor the driver and issue warnings, both audible and visual, if it detects the driver is not attentive. After a countdown from 10 seconds, the system expects the driver to regain control. Mercedes engineers noted that most drivers do regain control within about 4 seconds.

During the test, the reviewer admitted to struggling to keep hands off the pedals and steering wheel, as touching either will disengage Drive Pilot. The system will also deactivate if it loses sight of the lead vehicle. The transition of control between driver and car, known as the “handoff,” is one of the most challenging aspects of autonomous driving.

Mercedes-Benz explicitly states that if the system fails to operate as designed during the 10-second handoff period, the responsibility lies with the automaker. Otherwise, the driver is responsible for taking control.

Comparatively, Tesla’s Autopilot system, which began appearing in Tesla vehicles in 2014, is currently at Level 2 automation. This means that drivers must keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, even though the system offers features such as active lane keeping, dynamic cruise control, collision avoidance, and emergency braking. While Tesla’s system is more capable than Drive Pilot in certain aspects, it still requires drivers to remain engaged.

One notable difference between Mercedes-Benz and Tesla is their approach to autonomous technology. Tesla relies on machine vision and optical cameras to create a virtualized view of the world, while Mercedes-Benz uses a mix of sensors operating at multiple wavelengths, including binocular cameras and long-range LIDAR sensors.

Drive Pilot can automatically follow a route from highway entrance to exit using a 3-D map of multi-wavelength imagery. However, this map is currently limited to California and Nevada, the only two states where Drive Pilot is approved for public road use.

Looking ahead, Level 5 automation represents fully unrestricted driving automation, often associated with robotaxis. Tesla is aggressively pursuing this goal with its Full Self-Driving technology, Version 12, which uses generative artificial intelligence to mimic human driving behavior. This approach is a significant departure from traditional computing methods and aims to teach self-driving cars to behave like human drivers.

While the journey toward fully autonomous vehicles continues, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla are taking distinct paths, each with its own set of challenges and innovations. The future of self-driving cars remains an exciting and evolving landscape, with both companies pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in autonomous technology.

If you’re interested in the several innovations that Mercedes-Benz has to offer, check out our online new car inventory on our dealership website, John Sisson Motors. We carry several vehicles from the brand in a variety of different styles and prices.

Photo Source/Copyright: Mercedes-Benz Media Newsroom USA