MERCEDES-BENZ SELF-DRIVING SEDAN
Mercedes-Benz has claimed a world-first this week, completing a 100 kilometre journey with a fully autonomous version of its new S-Class sedan.
Underscoring the importance of the event, the S 500 Intelligent Drive’s journey traced the route of the world’s first powered long-distance road trip, undertaken 125 years ago by Karl Benz’s wife Bertha.
Travelling along wide highways and potted country roads, the self-driving vehicle - and its human occupants - benefited from a mapping collaboration with Nokia that saw “every centimetre” of the journey mapped out in 3D.
Working together with vehicle-mounted radar and camera systems, the mapping program contributed to the car’s ability to recognise and respond to other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and animals.
Other recognition functions include the ability to read traffic signals, along with - much like systems already available in human-piloted cars - lane markings and road signs.
A number of the S 500 Intelligent Drive’s systems utilise technologies offered in the regular S-Class range, but the program’s engineers enhanced their capabilities for use in the autonomous prototype.
Thanks to these tweaks, the car is able to control the steering, acceleration and braking systems on its own, while analysing map and traffic data to choose the optimum route to a specific destination.
The company says the technology is not quite ready for production - and local laws and infrastructure must also be brought up to speed with the futuristic concepts of autonomous driving - but a 2020 market debut is in sight.
Nissan and Renault have also set a 2020 deadline for a showroom-ready autonomous vehicle, and new regulations under consideration by the United Nations could soon pave the way for laws that will accommodate self-driven vehicles on public roads.