Autonomous motoring statement follows successful Mercedes S-class trial across Germany
Jim Holder
9 September 2013

Mercedes has vowed to launch an autonomous driving car this decade, following a successful trial with its Mercedes S-class Intelligent Drive prototype last month.

The modified Mercedes S500 hybrid followed the same 103km (68-mile) route as Bertha Benz – the wife of Carl Benz - took when she tried the first car 125 years ago, driving from Mannheim to Pforzheim. 

Although regulations meant the car had to carry passengers, at no point did they provide an input into the car during a journey which was roughly divided between open roads and tight city driving. Mercedes says all the sensors used on the car are “production based”.

Speaking at the Frankfurt motor show Thomas Weber, head of research and development at Mercedes said: “This trial proved that autonomous driving could be available today.

“Yes, there are obstacles to overcome before it can reach series production, but this journey was as significant as the one 125 years ago – it is the beginning of a new era of individual mobility.”

The S-class Intelligent Drive operates via a sensors and accurate mapping, scanning the road around it for obstacles while working to the maps. Systems include a stereo camera, two long-range radars, four short-range radars, a colour camera to read traffic lights and a rear-facing camera that cameras the view with the mapping, to ensure the car is locating its position accurately.

Weber explained that there are three obstacles to the car reaching production now: the need for even more computing power to enable even greater data processing, optimised mapping that is entirely reliable and a need for legislation to adapt.

“This is a technical revolution, and such things take time,” said Weber. “For instance, if it stops at a zebra crossing and the person crossing waits and motions for the car to go, it still waits – it cannot read gestures yet. But, in time, it will.

“At Mercedes we want to be the first to offer a car that can drive in an autonomous fashion, and my understanding is that will happen this decade.”

Weber conceded that not everyone will want cars that drive for them, but added: “In busy traffic, heading to a busy day at work, who wouldn’t welcome a friend who can drive through the traffic for them.”

Mercedes is already working with the German authorities to adapt regulations to allow autonomous driving. It has identified three types of autonomous driving around which to develop regulations: partially autonomous where the driver must constantly monitor the road, highly automated, where the driver can engage in some non-driving activities, and fully autonomous, where the driver need not monitor the road.

The former is already available on the Mercedes E-class and Mercedes S-class, via its Distronic Plus and Steering Assist systems, which steer the car through traffic jams.

Click here for more Frankfurt motor show news.

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10 September 2013

Where are all the folk who, no more than 2 or 3 years ago were saying this was impossible and just won't happen?

Hmmm. Smile

In fact, I think Merc are being a little cautious saying within this decade, it looks like it's pretty much already done and dusted, bar the refinements. Possibly the EU regulations is the biggest hurdle, rather than technology?

10 September 2013

I wonder what effect this will have on liability and car insurance. Surely assessing a drivers motoring history and 'risk factors' will become far less relevant. Will the insurance companies be looking to the car manufacturers who design these systems to cough up after an accident?

10 September 2013

How will insurance companies view it when you are driving and have an accident that could be seen as avoidable if you'd let the computer take the wheel?

Also, will there be such massively cheaper premiums for people if they buy a car where manual control is locked out, such that driving your own car will become a thing of the past or a luxury for the rich?

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