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Featured Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes Benz has become the first automaker to gain regulatory approval for a car that can drive itself.
Under the approval, Mercedes-Benz will be able to legally build and sell a car that can drive itself up to 37 mph (60hm/h) in heavy traffic on geofenced stretches of highway.
The debut will be released in next year's S-Class and EQS sedans and only applies to the German market.
Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC in the new #EQS: on all types of roads - motorways, country roads or in town - this system can automatically maintain a preset distance from vehicles ahead. Find out more on Mercedes me media: https://t.co/1sIBsNLna9 #MercedesEQ #switchtoEQ
- Mercedes-Benz Press (@MB_Press) December 6, 2021
The new automated system is a step up from previously existing driver-assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control to maintain the car's speed and lane-keeping assist that tracks lane markers and centres the car on the road.
Those are considered 'level 2' systems and mean a human is still required to maintain situational awareness while in a moving vehicle.
The new system uses radar, cameras, LIDAR, microphones and a moisture sensor, plus GNSS to track the location of the car and it means the vehicle completely manages the drive, allowing humans to completely take their focus off the road.
The car should be able to handle unexpected traffic situations and take evasive action if necessary.
Under level 3, a car still requires a driver to take control in extreme situations, meaning the car cannot travel completely autonomously.
With the approval for the Drive Pilot to be deployed in the first half of 2022, Mercedes Benz is open to seek similar approval in the rest of the European Union, as well as other markets.
Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes Benz AG, said: "For many years, we have been working to realise our vision of automated driving.
"With this LiDAR based system, we have developed an innovative technology for our vehicles that offers customers a unique, luxurious driving experience and gives them what matters most: time.
"With the approval of the authorities, we have now achieved a breakthrough: We are the first manufacturer to put conditionally automated driving into series production in Germany."
The previously mapped out roads on which the car can travel exist on 13,191 km (8,196 miles) of German autobahn.
"With this milestone, we are once again proving our pioneering work in automated driving and also initiating a radical paradigm shift," Schäfer said.
"For the first time in 136 years of automotive history, the vehicle takes over the dynamic driving task under certain conditions.
At the same time, we are pleased that Germany is continuing its pioneering role in automated driving with this approval.