It almost seems too good to be true. Mercedes-Benz is rolling out a self-driving system that’s specifically designed for traffic jams.
Better still, it’s the first so-called autonomous driving system that doesn’t require you to keep an eye on the road.
Want to read the paper or do Wordle on your way to work? Go ahead.
The new system, called Drive Pilot, is designed to operate only when traffic is slower than 40 miles per hour.
When engaged, Drive Pilot takes over the gas, brakes and steering, and uses sensors to keep your car flowing with stop-and-start traffic.
If, like me, you’re thinking this is a recipe for getting into a fender-bender, Mercedes has you covered. The carmaker says that if the system is being used correctly but still gets into an accident, it will accept liability.
Drive Pilot has been available in Germany for a year, and Mercedes says that so far no one has come to them with an accident report.
I’m guessing German drivers are more attentive than SoCal denizens.
CNN test-drove a Drive Pilot-equipped Mercedes in Los Angeles and found that it could handle local commutes.
“You don’t have to watch the car in front of you move and stop, move and stop while you monitor the vehicles on both sides to see if anyone is cutting in,” CNN’s reporter found. “The car does it all for you.”
In any case, Drive Pilot is currently authorized for use in the United States only in California and Nevada, so don’t go thinking you can use it for cross-country adventures.
The system also won’t let you lean back and catch some shut-eye as you commute. Reclining too far will lead to the system shutting down.
Cameras and sensors in the car also make sure your eyes don’t stray too far from the road. If you start rummaging around the back seat for something, the system will stop working.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of Drive Pilot is the price.
Mercedes says the technology runs $2,500 for the first year of use — and it isn’t yet saying what the cost is for subsequent years.
Also, it’s only available at the moment on Mercedes’ two most expensive sedans, the gas-powered S-class and the electric EQS.
The sticker price for the S-class starts at $114,500. The EQS sedan similarly tops $100,000.