Episode 1: „Bertha' s great adventure“.

In 1886, Carl Benz invented a machine the likes of which the world had never seen before: the automobile. Two years later, his wife dared to take it on the first long-distance trip. It was a trip of around 100 kilometres, characterised by strong confidence in the Patent Motor Car. It became the departure point into the future of mobility. And its echo reverberates all the way to autonomous driving.

Full confidence in the automobile: in 1888, Bertha Benz with her sons drove the Patent Motor Car from Mannheim to Pforzheim.

The first long-distance trip.

Full confidence in the automobile: in 1888, Bertha Benz with her sons drove the Patent Motor Car from Mannheim to Pforzheim. Confidence on this early summer morning was more important than petrol.

Because petrol was sold at the chemist's, brake pads at the cobbler, a plugged petrol line could be cleaned with a hat pin and on sections that were too steep the passengers simply got out and pushed for a bit.

Bertha Benz.

However, the driver herself had to contribute the strong and very fundamental confidence in this new machine. It was none other than Bertha Benz, née Ringer, the wife of automobile inventor Carl Benz.

The bridal couple Bertha Ringer and Carl Benz in 1870.
In 2013, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE completed the route Bertha Benz took in 1888 largely in autonomous mode.

From Mannheim to Pforzheim.

On an August morning in 1888, she went on the first long-distance trip in automotive history: a distance of some 100 kilometres – from her home in Mannheim to Pforzheim where she was born.

Confidence in the new technology

This drive left its marks. 125 years later, in August 2013: The Mercedes-Benz S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE drove largely autonomously in inter-urban and urban traffic – likewise from Mannheim to Pforzheim.

At first glance, the visionary luxury saloon has little in common with the three-wheeled first automobile in history. But both vehicles are driven by the same value: by the confidence in a new technology that will change mobility and quality of life substantially. As a result, Mercedes-Benz was the first automotive manufacturer in the world to accomplish an autonomous trip in daily traffic in 2013 – and it did so with production-based technology.

In the footsteps of Bertha Benz: the Mercedes-Benz S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE demonstrated autonomous driving in September 2013.

S 500: Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: XX l/100 km; CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: ab XXX g/km.*

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: with numerous solutions related to semi-autonomous driving.

A host of solutions for semi-autonomous driving have already made their way into the production vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, for example into the new E-Class: for instance, driving assistance systems such as Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Brake Assist with pedestrian detection, Remote Parking Assist, Active Lane Change Assist and Car-to-X communication.

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle shows the future of autonomous driving.

The future of autonomous driving.

These systems perfect the Mercedes-Benz vision of accident-free driving and at the same time pave the way towards the future. The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle shows what autonomous driving might look like.

Left: The birth certificate of the automobile: patent document of Carl Benz from 1886, cover page.

Right: In 1886, Carl Benz received the German patent on his motor vehicle under the number 37 435. Drawings from the patent application.

The invention as initial spark.

The technical designs of the founding fathers of Mercedes‑Benz Group AG laid the foundation for all these and future developments. In 1886, Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile independently of each other. The Motor Car was developed in the workshop of Benz in Mannheim. Its patent application dated 29 January 1886 is considered the birth certificate of the car.

That same year, Daimler installed his engine in a carriage – his first automobile was born.

A culture of continuous innovation.

The car powered by a one-cylinder engine rated at 1.5 hp (1.1 kW) that took Bertha and her sons on the journey through the summer morning was the production version of the first Patent Motor Car. The tall-riding vehicle was the first example of a culture of continuous innovation: it now had wooden wheels instead of wire-spoke wheels – that made it more robust on the poor roads. And the additional seat above the front wheel (facing the rear) offered enough room for a third passenger. What would the father and husband have had to say to his family? The three motorists had no way of knowing: Carl was still deeply asleep at home when his family departed with his Patent Motor Car.

The Benz Patent Motor Car in the streets around 1890.
Early filling station: Bertha Benz in front of the chemist's in Wiesloch where she bought petrol during her long-distance drive.

Full confidence in the automobile.

Navigation and refuelling, minor repairs along the way and dealing with the innovative technology – all those are tasks that Bertha and her sons learned to perform on the way. They learned to deal with it unthinkingly based on the foundation of their confidence in the visionary vehicle. It is precisely this process of trusting adoption that generations of motorists have employed since then to use and come to appreciate all modern assistance systems.

Diese Route legte Bertha Benz mit ihren Söhnen zurück.

This is the route that Bertha Benz took with her sons.

The journey of Bertha Benz in August 1888 was a drive the world remembers. As early as 1900, the 'Rheinische Automobilclub' organised a long-distance drive in the footsteps of the woman pioneer. And in 1988, the 'Bertha Benz Commemorative Drive' took place with 170 antique cars.

Today, there is a memorial route that follows the historic one, and there is the 'Bertha Benz Drive' for classic automobiles which is held on a regular basis. This is the look at the history, at the values and achievements that embody the living heritage of the world's oldest automotive manufacturer.

But how would Bertha Benz look to the future today?

She would surely enjoy the innovations of autonomous driving, would have full confidence in the new possibilities of the automobile – just as she had in the Patent Motor Car back then. And instead of sending her Carl a telegram from the post office along the way, she would have simply reached him in real time using the communication technology of the vehicle. All the while the vehicle assists the driver in any traffic situation.

Automotive pioneers: Bertha Benz on her 90th birthday in 1939 with her sons Richard (left) and Eugen.