Home » Why Mercedes Is Adding A Whole New Color To Its Car Lights

Why Mercedes Is Adding A Whole New Color To Its Car Lights

Mercedes Benz Blue Lights Ts3
ADVERTISEMENT

Cars with “advanced driver assistance systems” and even ostensibly “full” self-driving capabilities now roam the streets with the rest of us. It’s easy to spot a Cruise or a Waymo car bristling with sensors on top, sure. But Teslas using “Autopilot” and other cars operating with Level 2 assists just blend into traffic. Is that car ahead of you or in your rear-view mirror under computer control, or is the bag of meat in the driver’s seat making the decisions? Mercedes-Benz thinks it should be more obvious when a car is under the command of an autonomous system, and has chosen to represent that visually to other road users. How? With a turquoise light, that’s how!

As covered by CNN, the new turquoise light has been approved for road use by California and Nevada. These two states are the only ones to have approved Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system for use, which is a Level 3 autonomous driving system. Unlike Level 2 systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot, Level 3 systems are considered to handle the entire driving task themselves. However, the driver may be asked to take over in certain circumstances. Where a Level 2 “driving assist” system still holds the human driver responsible, Level 3 systems are “automated driving features” and humans are not expected to pay attention unless asked to take over. We’ve explored the concept in detail if you’d like to brush up on the topic.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Given the Level 3 system puts the computer fully in charge, it makes sense to indicate this status to other road users. The intention is to help other drivers to understand that the humans in the car aren’t paying attention to driving when the turquoise lights are on. The turquoise lights are to be integrated with the taillights and headlights of the vehicle, as well as on the mirrors, providing visibility from the front and rear.

Us Behörden Geben Grünes Licht: Mercedes Benz Erhält Weltweit Erste Genehmigung Für Den Einsatz Spezieller Außenbeleuchtung Für Automatisiertes Fahren Mercedes Benz Receives Approvals For Turquoise Coloured Automated Driving Marker Lights In Califor

Us Behörden Geben Grünes Licht: Mercedes Benz Erhält Weltweit Erste Genehmigung Für Den Einsatz Spezieller Außenbeleuchtung Für Automatisiertes Fahren Mercedes Benz Receives Approvals For Turquoise Coloured Automated Driving Marker Lights In Califor

ADVERTISEMENT

Us Behörden Geben Grünes Licht: Mercedes Benz Erhält Weltweit Erste Genehmigung Für Den Einsatz Spezieller Außenbeleuchtung Für Automatisiertes Fahren Mercedes Benz Receives Approvals For Turquoise Coloured Automated Driving Marker Lights In Califor

It bears noting that Drive Pilot is “conditionally autonomous” and can’t drive in all conditions just yet. For now, it’s able to drive in heavy traffic on certain highways when prevailing speeds are at 40 miles or less. It’s only for California and Nevada for now, and it will be available starting in 2024 on S-class and EQS models. It’s similar to Honda’s Traffic Jam Assist technology. Drivers and passengers are allowed to actually play games or use the Internet on the infotainment screen when the system is engaged, something which is strictly not allowed with Level 2 systems.

Mercedes chose the light-blue turquoise color as its not used for any other purpose in automotive lighting. Thus, it should serve as an unambiguous indication that a robot is behind the wheel. It stems from a recommendation from the Society of Automotive Engineers, which recommended turqouise in a standard known as “Automated Driving System Marker Lamp (J3134).” You’ll have to pay $84 if you want a copy, because putting on the annual SAE Saturnalia bash doesn’t come cheap. Fundamentally, though, it’s because turquoise is unique and more easily discernable from other colors already in use. Indeed, studies have suggested that it performs better in this way than other potential options like selective yellow, mint green, or purple-magenta.

Indeed, Mercedes has performed its own research, dating back years. Reports from 2019 outline how the German automaker was exploring various turquoise lighting configurations for indicating an autonomous car’s status of operation.

As it turns out, this isn’t a wholly original idea. Our own Jason Torchinsky had this very idea all the way back in 2016. Jason’s thrust was that cars with autonomous driving systems should have a light visible from all angles around the car, including above. Considering blue to be already taken by law enforcement, his choice was a purple lamp to indicate a robot was (figuratively) at the wheel. Jason’s hope was that the light would not only serve as a warning or indication to other drivers, but that it would ease the introduction of autonomous vehicles by virtue of being a “gesture of openness” to the driving public.

ADVERTISEMENT

As you might imagine, Jason insisted we mention his prior work in this piece, adding, “my heart exploded right before MB introduced this? Hmmmmmm.” You may speculate at will.

Ford has similarly explored the idea, with the Michigan automaker calling for standardized lights for autonomous vehicles back in 2018. Ford’s idea was to fit autonomous vehicles with light bars that could indicate when the car was yielding, continuing on its current course, or about to start moving with a variety of flashing light patterns. Meanwhile, Uber filed a patent the same year for a system of flashing lights and displays for communicating an autonomous vehicle’s intent to pedestrians and other road users.

So, if you’re out on the roads in Cali or Nevada, and you spot a turquoise light on a Mercedes, you’ll know what’s going on. If you’re outside the state lines and you spot turquoise, though, beware. That would indicate the Level 3 system has fled the designated area and is actively on the run. In that case, you should immediately notify Mercedes engineers such that they may capture and subdue the rogue vehicle. Okay, I’m kidding –  just leave the robot cars alone, yeah?

Image credits: Mercedes Benz

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
43 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ben
Ben
3 months ago

Given how bad L3 driver assist systems are in concept, they should just deploy giant red flags whenever it’s active.

Paul Wilcox
Paul Wilcox
3 months ago

So in CA a blue light on the front or back of your vehicle is illegal (only law enforcement can have that) but a turquoise light is OK? This is not workable. Also the comment about everyone putting aftermarket turquoise lights on various and sundry human-operated vehicles, like v6 Challengers, is also 100% correct.

Goblin
Goblin
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Wilcox

I have yet to see any recent Jeep with headlights that are not (completely illegal) red, green, or any other color that is NOT a headlight color. At least in my area.

Last edited 3 months ago by Goblin
Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
3 months ago

Mercedes can’t put amber in their taillights but they can do this? Seems like their priorities are out of order.

Parsko
Parsko
3 months ago

His heart would have been too weak to handle this AND what happened to him. I was fully expecting this article to be written by Jason (as the ONLY thing he is doing for work, cause this is his gig) when I opened it up “Hey, Jason must be back for this, for sure.” Still sad.

The Dude
The Dude
3 months ago

I’ve wanted this for years on Teslas so I can be extra cautious in case the car is about to pull some crazy move.

Jj
Jj
3 months ago

Around here, these lights will only serve as a signal that you are ALWAYS clear to merge in ahead of this vehicle.

Unlike a human operator, this thing will maintain a safe distance. You can cut this thing off all day long. Turquoise lights are the mark of a traffic cuck (meant in the traditional way – not political).

The Dude
The Dude
3 months ago
Reply to  Jj

I had no idea that Republicans were considered political cucks.

Jj
Jj
3 months ago
Reply to  The Dude

From what I could gather, it seemed like any non-nazi is a cuck. Many republicans, therefore, would be safe from that designation.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  Jj

Hahaha, that was my immediate thought: now I know who I can get in front of when merging.

Thi
Thi
3 months ago

Turquoise is an intriguing choice from an accessibility factor, as someone with red/green colorblindness (the most common colorblindness), these lights just look white to me, ie like any other DRL.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Thi

Well a car with white taillights is still distinctive and unique, right?

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  Thi

I would think that in some atmospheric conditions or angles, they might look white to people without color blindness, especially with the blue-tint “white” LEDs used today. I don’t think it will be much of a problem at the moment*, but might cause confusion in parking lots when these systems get better.

*I imagine these won’t be bright enough to be a real issue, but if these look white to you, would they also negatively affect your vision at night as white light would?

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago

And… 3…2…1… to the first schmuck fighting a ticket in court for handheld cell phone usage in the driver’s seat while Level 3 automation is engaged.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
3 months ago

So here’s what’s going to happen. Idiots will see all these new high-end cars with turquoise lights out on the road. They’ll think to themselves that they might like some of these turquoise lights for themselves and bounce over to Amazon or Temu or wherever they can get some cheap stick-on turquoise LEDs and slap them on their cars(Okay, Nissan Altimas. Maybe Dodge Chargers, but definitely Altimas). The aftermarket will step up and Altima-specific turquoise running lights will be available within weeks. Maybe there will be a “not for sale in Nevada and California” disclaimer on the website, maybe not.

The roads will be awash in badly-driven crapbox cars with turquoise lights. 90% of drivers will have no idea what the lights were meant to represent in the first place. People will just learn to be careful around cars with turquoise running lights.

Which I guess was the idea in the first place, so… good job?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Yeah, I can see this happening. Hell, I used to work with someone who drove with her headlights on all the time – not for safety, her rationale was that it made her car look newer, since it predated daytime running lights

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Or it made her car look like an early 2000s Chevy.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

100% this will happen and turquoise lights will lose all meaning.

Oldskool
Oldskool
3 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

So turquoise lights mean the driver is doing something else besides paying attention to the road. Gotcha.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
3 months ago

Fundamentally, though, it’s because turquoise is unique and more easily discernable from other colors already in use

“The one CMYK colour that is not already in use is easier to distinguish than a colour that is already in use. That’ll be 84 dollars please.”
And to think I spent years of my life learning an actual profession when I could have just demanded money for stating the blatantly obvious.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
3 months ago

If this is only approved for use in 2 states, will it be geofenced to disengage at the state line? What if I move from a state where it’s approved to a state where it isn’t – what citations or penalties might I expect if I use it, or will I be able to deactivate it and get a refund on the now-useless feature?

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
3 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

If this is only approved for use in 2 states, will it be geofenced to disengage at the state line?

It sounds like the robot will demand you take the wheel when it’s outside its operating envelope, which currently is “California/Nevada, Highway, under 40 mph” so yeah I very much assume it would disengage.
As for a refund, I assume MB’s answer is going to be “hahahahahaha nope”

Last edited 3 months ago by LuzifersLicht
Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
3 months ago
Reply to  LuzifersLicht

As for a refund, I assume MB’s answer is going to be “hahahahahaha nope”

Well, hope springs eternal for us tightwads.

Andy the Swede
Andy the Swede
3 months ago

Back in the 2010s we called the color “cyan” within the HMI (human machine interface) research community on automated driving. And as you point out, it is pretty much the only color out there that is left for grabs 🙂

Its great to see that a manufacturer actually bases its design on research instead of going all Tesla and just being stubborn.

Eric Davis
Eric Davis
3 months ago

If the light is orange that means it’s lost its internet connection and you should unplug it, count to ten, then plug it back in.

Paul B
Paul B
3 months ago

I foresee hijinks where people “test” the system of these cars when they see them on the road.

Think about the scene in cars when the “teenagers” make Mack sleepy.

Alexk98
Alexk98
3 months ago

Mercedes chose the light-blue turquoise color as its not used for any other purpose in automotive lighting

I don’t know man, Turquoise is very clearly one of the challenger/charger dude bro RGB lighting colors of choice. The jury is still out on whether or not its a mating symbol like a peacock, or warning colors like a poison dart frog, but my money is on both.

Last edited 3 months ago by Alexk98
Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
3 months ago

Since it’s only on new S class and EQS vehicles (the latter being screwed down to the showroom floors) I’m guessing these will be few and far between.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
3 months ago

How should I be adjusting my driving behavior around so-called self-driving cars? Presumably since indicators are being added to them, I should be doing something differently.

And if the driving behaviors of normal drivers need to change in order to accommodate self-driving cars, that tells me that the self-driving systems aren’t ready to be deployed on public roads yet.

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

As the article says, the behavior is to be accepting of the driver not watching the road. It’s a comfort factor, because any other car where the driver isn’t watching the road is illegal.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
3 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

Good point.

Gee See
Gee See
3 months ago

I want to hear what Jason has to say about it.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago

Very futuristic, helper robot color.

If only it were possible to, while we’re at it, change taillight requirements to orange for running that changes to red when you hit the brakes.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
3 months ago

Lewin, thank you for including the word ‘its’ in the headline. It saves some people from a disappointment.

While I’m not generally a big fan of turquoise, I have to admit that it looks pretty in form of car lighting. Unfortunately, in this usage it works as a stigma.

It’s great to be able to spot (semi-)autonomous vehicles right away. It gives me the opportunity to grab my kids from the sidewalk and run!

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

If real life were a movie, they’d all change to angry red before that happened…

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
3 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

BRB, going to add “her” to the headline.

(Ok, fine, I won’t! Don’t hurt me, Matt!)

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
3 months ago

I’ve read your things for so long now that I automatically assume, regardless of context, that “Mercedes” means you.

I guess it’s because the other Mercedes has done nothing I’ve been interested in since the Cosworth 190, whereas only yesterday you opened my eyes to an entirely new thing to love: Wankel motorcycles.

To avoid the confusion I say let the faceless corporation get used to having its last name used all the time like it’s being told off. Mercedes Benz.

James Mason
James Mason
3 months ago

People with guns who like to stop cars and rob the occupants will have a direct indicator of which ones have drivers who aren’t paying attention and are (almost) guaranteed to not run them over.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  James Mason

That might be the weirdest takeaway from driverless cars that I’ve come across.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

But is it wrong? He might have a point. Carjackers depend on people being inattentive to their surroundings.

James Mason
James Mason
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Its a question I was faced with when evaluating early autonomous military convoy trucks (A.K.A free food and weapons for anyone who simply stops the lead truck)

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  James Mason

…. as a veteran myself, I can safely say that a military convoy is not really equivalent to a businessman in a Merc

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

I like it, but I would like it more if it was more prevalent. I don’t need to really look at a car to determine what its doing, I need to be able to glance at it so I can get back to the business at hand.

43
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x