If you see a Mercedes EQS with turquoise lights, it’s driving itself

Red means stop, green means go – and turquoise now means automated driving: Mercedes-Benz is the first automaker permitted to use exterior marker lights, which means automated driving is activated, in California and Nevada.

Turquoise is the color

In California, Mercedes can now test turquoise marker lights for automated driving – its DRIVE PILOT system – on freeways. The unique marker lights are integrated into the EQS’s front and rear lights and the two outside mirrors in testing cars.

In Nevada, the permit allows production cars to be equipped with marker lights, beginning with the 2026 Mercedes-Benz EQS, until legislative changes occur.

Mercedes says the exterior turquoise lights (pictured above) let the public and police know that the EQS’s automated driving system is switched on. (That way, drivers don’t get in trouble with the law for doing other things besides steering the car.)

Mercedes chose the color turquoise for two main reasons – its visibility and the fact that the color isn’t used by existing vehicle lighting, traffic lights, or emergency lighting. (Mercedes notes that the marker lights are designed in accordance with SAE J3134 Recommended Practice.)

Markus Schäfer, Mercedes-Benz’s chief technology officer, development & purchasing, said:

With the development of automated driving marker lights, Mercedes-Benz is once again setting new industry standards. We are the first automaker in the world to receive such approvals in the US, specifically in California and Nevada.

The more automated driving vehicles populate the road, the more important communication and interaction between the vehicle and the environment become.

As my colleague Jameson Dow explained when he test drove the EQS’s DRIVE PILOT system in September, it’s the first hands-free Level 3 autonomous drive system certified to operate in the US:

Autonomous drive systems are ranked from level 0-5, describing how much capability the system has. In general, levels 0-2 are primarily human-driven, and levels 3-5 are primarily autonomously driven.

What [Level 3] means is this is the first system in the US that is actually validated to take full control of the vehicle, under certain circumstances, freeing you to do other tasks than driving.

This is a fledgling technology – it was first made available for order in Germany last year – so while DRIVE PILOT is a trailblazer, it still has limitations. Level 3 is conditional automation, meaning it only works within Mercedes’ “Operational Design Domain.” That means heavy traffic conditions under 40 mph with a lead car available, good weather, good road conditions, and only in well-mapped areas. The driver also needs to be able to take the wheel when the car tells you to.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Electrek’s Take

When you drive near student drivers, the car is marked in some way to let you know that an inexperienced driver has the wheel. It’s a heads-up.

So, it makes sense that, eventually, all Level 3 automated driving EVs have their own heads-up: standardized lighting that comes on when it’s piloting itself. In fact, it should be required.

So, perhaps turquoise will become the standard color for automated driving, as Mercedes has proposed. A lot of different players will have to buy in.

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