Mercedes-Benz says it’s the first automaker to receive approval for special exterior lighting meant to demonstrate that a vehicle is self-driving.
The OEM received two-year exemption permits in California and Nevada that allow it to use special marker lights for autonomous driving in both states.
In California, it will test turquoise-colored lights for autonomous vehicles (AVs) traveling on freeways, it said. Its Nevada permit allows model year 2026 EQS and S-Class DRIVE PILOT vehicles to be equipped with special marker lights.
“Both permits allow Mercedes-Benz to gain important insights into the interaction of automated vehicles and other road users,” the automaker said in a press release. “The inclusion of marker lights is poised to substantially enhance public acceptance of automated driving and contribute to road safety, as the lights clearly visualize the automated driving system’s status on the exterior.
“This also allows traffic law enforcement and police officers to identify the system’s status and determine whether drivers are permitted to engage in secondary activities during the conditionally automated journey. Designed in accordance with SAE J3134 Recommended Practice, the turquoise-colored marker lights for automated driving in California are integrated into the front and rear lights as well as the two outside mirrors in Mercedes-Benz testing vehicles.”
Earlier this year, Mercedes‑Benz received approval in California for its Level 3 automated driving feature, Drive Pilot, making the OEM the first in the U.S. to offer an SAE Level 3 feature on standard production vehicles.
SAE defines Level 3 as the automated driving system being in full control of driving tasks and not requiring the person sitting in the driver’s seat to take over unless prompted. Mercedes cautions that while its Level 3-equipped vehicles will be in control, the driver is still required to pay attention and be ready to take control of the vehicle when necessary or when asked to by the vehicle. While Mercedes said drivers can have their attention on secondary activities, the OEM notes that drivers should follow legally permissible activities based on national road traffic regulations.
Drive Pilot will be available as an option beginning with model year 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedan models in California and Nevada after Nevada confirmed the compliance of the feature with state regulations in January. Mercedes has previously said that it plans to branch out to other markets in the future.
Mercedes said its automated driving marker lights will initially be integrated into testing vehicles in California equipped with Drive Pilot.
The OEM said it chose turquoise as the color because it is visible to other road users and differentiates itself from other roadway colors such as traffic lights or emergency lighting. It added that several studies have found turquoise to be the optimal color for automated driving.
“Mercedes-Benz is committed to standardizing the color turquoise with the intention to visualize the automated driving state, fostering global understanding and acceptance for this technology,” the automaker said. “So far, there is no general framework in the U.S., China, or the UN-ECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) for using turquoise lights in production vehicles. California and Nevada have taken the first important step with the now-granted exemptions.
“A future globally harmonized regulation for turquoise marker lights for automated driving will form the basis for heightened safety for all road users and propelling further technical innovations.”
All images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz