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Get Ready for a New Color in Traffic: Turquoise Lights for Self-Driving Mercedes Cars

Mercedes has received permits to test a new way for other drivers to identify when a vehicle is in self-driving mode.

One of the first things we learn as new drivers is the color palette of the road. Green means go, yellow or amber calls for attention, while red and blue mean stop or get the hell out of the way. Now, for the first time in possibly decades, there’s a new one to add to the list. It’s turquoise, and it’ll belong to cars operating without input from their drivers.

The color has been earmarked under permits from the states of California and Nevada that were issued to Mercedes-Benz for its groundbreaking SAE Level 3 automated driving system, Drive Pilot. Mercedes said that no national or international standards for signaling computer-driven cars already existed, leaving regulators to come up with a distinct color to signify authorized vehicles. That’ll prevent incidents where the public or police lose their minds if they see an S-Class driver watching a video with their hands off the wheel.

Turquoise was selected for multiple reasons: It’s visible and distinct in a way purple might not be, and it’s not already associated with another signal. The primary colors red, yellow, and blue are already spoken for, and so are the compound colors green and orange. The fact that turquoise was previously recommended by the SAE doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact that the color’s already associated with the Formula 1 team of the manufacturer cleared to use it.

Under the operating permit, Mercedes’ Drive Pilot can activate turquoise lights integrated into its headlights, taillights, and side mirrors. Use of the tech however is limited to highway only, and authorized in California for only two years. In Nevada though, the allowance is indefinite beginning with the 2026 EQS and S-Class sedans.

Turquoise lighting elements in a Mercedes-Benz EQS
Turquoise lighting elements in a Mercedes-Benz EQS. Mercedes-Benz

Of course, the tech’s already out there on the road, it just doesn’t have to announce what it’s doing. This framework doesn’t seem to be about requiring carmakers to retrofit turquoise lights for their vehicles, but rather give them an option to. Given the benefits, it’s hard to imagine more companies won’t adopt it as a standard—that is, when they can deploy equivalent technology.

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