The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has issued an autonomous vehicle deployment permit to Mercedes-Benz USA, allowing the company to offer its Drive Pilot automated driving system on designated California highways under certain conditions without the active control of a human driver.
Mercedes-Benz is the fourth company to receive an autonomous vehicle deployment permit in the American state, and the first authorised to sell or lease vehicles with an automated driving system to the public.
Based on the SAE International levels of driving automation, an SAE Level 3 system actively performs driving tasks without the active control or monitoring of a human driver under certain conditions, though the driver must remain behind the wheel to take over if prompted.
The Level 3 Drive Pilot system can only operate on highways during daylight at speeds not exceeding 40 mph (64 km/h). The permit excludes operation on city or country streets, in construction zones, during heavy rain or heavy fog, on flooded roads, or during weather conditions determined to impact performance of the system.
Additionally, vehicle owners must watch a mandatory video explaining the capabilities of the system and how to engage and disengage the technology before Mercedes-Benz will activate Drive Pilot in the vehicle.
The California DMV says that for an OEM to receive a deployment permit, manufacturers must certify that they meet a number of safety, insurance, and vehicle registration requirements, including:
- Identifying the operational design domain of the vehicles, as well as describing any commonly occurring restricted conditions within which the vehicles would not be able to operate.
- Verifying the technology is capable of detecting and responding to roadway situations in compliance with the California Vehicle Code, and a definition of how the vehicle meets the definition of an SAE Level 3, 4 or 5 autonomous technology.
- Verifying the vehicles meet US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or have a federal exemption.
- Certifying the manufacturer has conducted test and validation methods and is satisfied that the autonomous vehicles are safe for deployment on California public roads.
- For vehicles to be sold or leased to the public, the manufacturer must provide a consumer / end-user education plan that describes the capabilities of the autonomous system and how to engage and disengage the technology.
- Developing a Law Enforcement Interaction Plan that provides information to law enforcement and other first responders on how to interact with autonomous vehicles.
- Providing evidence of insurance or a bond equal to US$5 million.