Germany Clears Mercedes-Benz’s Hands-Free Drive System

Germany Clears Mercedes-Benz’s Hands-Free Drive System
The Mercedes Benz star is seen on the bonnet of a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine at the company's test center, near Immendingen, Germany, on Oct. 14, 2020. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

BERLIN—Germany’s car watchdog has cleared Mercedes-Benz’s semi-autonomous driving system, paving the way for the Daimler AG subsidiary to begin offering its Drive Pilot system internationally.

The highly automated system allows the driver to focus on other activities while a car equipped with the technology is in heavy traffic or on congested highways, Mercedes-Benz said in a statement on Thursday.

Germany’s KBA authority approved the system based on technical requirements laid out in United Nations regulations.

“The KBA is setting national, European and international standards in road safety on the road to autonomous driving,” said the authority’s president, Richard Damm, in a statement.

Beyond the U.N. regulation on technical requirements, countries also have to pass legislation clarifying where and how such systems can be used, as well as issues of liability.

“With this milestone, we are once again proving our pioneering work in automated driving and also initiating a radical paradigm shift,” said Markus Schaefer, Daimler chief technology officer.

As soon as legislation in China and the United States is in place, Mercedes-Benz will offer the system in those markets, Schaefer added.

Germany’s approval means Mercedes-Benz can offer the S-Class with Drive Pilot to customers in Germany in the first half of 2022.

Such Level 3 automated systems have been allowed in Germany since 2017. According to Mercedes-Benz, there are over 13,100 kilometres (8,140 miles) of motorway suitable for the Drive Pilot system in Germany.

The KBA approved the system for driving speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour (37 miles per hour). It has not decided whether to clear it for speeds of up to 130 kph, or a lane-change assistant that would automate overtaking another car.