California DMV Approves Mercedes-Benz Automated Driving System for Certain Highways and Conditions

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June 8, 2023

Sacramento – The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today issued an autonomous vehicle deployment permit to Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 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 California and the first authorized 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 of a human driver under certain conditions, though the driver must remain behind the wheel to take over when prompted. The Level 3 Mercedes-Benz DRIVE PILOT system can only operate on highways during daylight at speeds not exceeding 40 miles per hour. This permit excludes operation on city or county streets, in construction zones, during heavy rain or heavy fog, on flooded roads and during weather conditions that are determined to impact performance of DRIVE PILOT. 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.

Mercedes-Benz has had authority to test autonomous vehicles on California public roads with a safety driver since September 2014. Unlike an autonomous testing permit, which limits the compensation that a manufacturer can receive from the public while validating the technology on public roads, a deployment permit authorizes a company to make its autonomous technology commercially available outside of a testing program.

This deployment permit grants Mercedes-Benz permission to offer its DRIVE PILOT system on California highways in the Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego. In addition, DRIVE PILOT will be available on Interstate 15 connecting Southern California to Nevada, where the system is also approved for use.

To receive a deployment permit, manufacturers must certify 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 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/disengage the technology.
  • Developing a Law Enforcement Interaction Plan that provides information to law enforcement and other first responders on how to interact with the autonomous vehicles.
  • Providing evidence of insurance or a bond equal to $5 million.

Additional information on deployment permits is available on the DMV website.


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