Why Mercedes-Benz is using turquoise lights for its Drive Pilot cars

The marque’s conditional automation system, Drive Pilot, is the first approved for operation in the U.S

In the future, you’ll be able to tell when a Mercedes-Benz is driving itself.

The German luxury marque announced on Tuesday that vehicles equipped with its autonomous driving technology will use turquoise-coloured marker lights to signal when the software is in use. The automaker is the first to receive approval to use the colour of light on a motor vehicle in the U.S.

Mercedes’s new turquoise lights will be equipped on EQS and S-class sedans that feature Drive Pilot, the company’s SAE Level 3 self-driving system. The approval comes just months after the software was certified for use on select roads and highways in California and Nevada. It’s in these states where the new marker lights have also now been permitted for use. Mercedes believes the use of the lights will help foster public acceptance of automated driving and contribute to better road safety.

A Mercedes-Benz EQS with Drive Pilot. Photo by Deniz Calagan/Mercedes-Benz

The lights will start popping up on Drive Pilot-equipped Mercedes in California first. The nation’s most EV-friendly state has issued a permit to the automaker to test turquoise lights for automated driving over the next two years. The lights will be integrated into the headlamps and taillights, as well as the side-view mirrors. In Nevada, meanwhile, Mercedes has received permission to start equipping Drive Pilot EQS and S-class sedans with the lights starting with the 2026 model year.

In the summer, Drive Pilot became the first conditional driver automation system to receive regulatory approval for operation stateside. The Level 3 self-driving technology can operate a vehicle at speeds under 64 km/h. Still, a human must be sitting in the driver’s seat and ready to take over should conditions change (i.e. the flow of traffic picks up or an emergency vehicle is present). The software, which already works in Germany, can be used on highways in the Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego, as well as an interstate connecting California and Nevada.

Testing of the turquoise-coloured marker lights may have only just been approved, but Drive Pilot vehicles are already on the road. The production-ready version of the technology is already in use on a small fleet of EQS sedans driving around California and Nevada. Delivery of Drive Pilot-equipped vehicles is scheduled to begin early next year.

This story was first published on Robb Report USA