Mercedes-Benz Debuts Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Autonomous vehicles are all the rage these days, with everyone from Nissan to Toyota to Tesla making announcements this year about their potential contributions to the future of the self-driving car. Now, Mercedes-Benz is joining the trend with its S-Class Intelligent Drive fully autonomous vehicle which has just completed a 100 kilometer drive on real roads in Germany.

On its autonomous journey, the S-Class Intelligent Drive followed the same historic route as the first ever long-distance automobile journey in 1888 from Mannheim to Pforzheim driven by Bertha Benz, the wife of Mercedes-Benz pioneer Carl Benz.

Although the standard 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class already features many cameras, radars, and active safety features, the Intelligent Drive system includes numerous modifications to enable what Mercedes calls fully automated driving, the highest level of autonomy above highly automated driving and partially automated driving. Long-range radars enable early detection of vehicles approaching at intersections, short-range radars at the corners help the vehicle detect near surroundings, and a color camera in the windshield detects traffic lights.

Partially automated driving systems are in production today, not only on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class and its suite of active safety technologies, but also on lower-end cars like the 2014 Infiniti Q50 which uses an industry-first steer-by-wire system to control an active lane departure system among other semi-autonomous systems.

The Intelligent Drive S-Class also uses GPS technology in conjunction with a rear-facing camera to provide better environment awareness accuracy than GPS could on its own. First, a special 3D map of the route was compiled before the drive and programmed into the car’s GPS system with enhanced details like lane directions and traffic signs. The system then uses the camera to recognize known environmental features, and the images are then compared with data stored on the 3D intelligent map to help the vehicle locate itself in regards to the surrounding environment.

According to a report by Reuters, Mercedes-Benz is planning on selling a self-driving car by 2020, the same year in which Nissan recently announced it would sell autonomous vehicles. Mercedes, however, wants to be first, according to Thomas Weber, the head of development at Daimler who is quoted in the Reuters story. Although this goal will face many obstacles along the way such as legal approval and public acceptance, the early stages of development show promise for this technology going forward.

Check out the video below to see the S-Class Intelligent Drive make its historic autonomous drive on the storied route in Germany.

Source: Mercedes-Benz, Reuters

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