Episode 6: Best co-driver.
The car itself has long since become the superb co-pilot for the driver: always attentive and always with the best route in mind. It supports the driver with connected technology. It even parks in the tightest spaces at the touch of a button – and will in future navigate to the destination autonomously. At Mercedes-Benz, all components and systems are integrated into the comprehensive concept of ‘Intelligent Drive’.
The silver racing sports car raced through the night with the engine roaring. The vague forms of villages, mountains, olive groves flew by the windows. Racing driver Stirling Moss crouched behind the steering wheel of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR and steered the Silver Arrow following the hand signals of his co-pilot Denis Jenkinson.
The safety and the victory depended on these commands: Moss drove the famous Italian Mille Miglia long-distance race with complete confidence in the precise information from the red-bearded Englishman. He read the curves and speeds from a roll of paper he prepared himself: his roadbook.
The trust paid off. Moss and Jenkinson crossed the finish line of the 1955 Mille Miglia as the victors – with the best average time ever recorded in the Italian long-distance race. And in addition to the Formula 1 World Championship, Mercedes-Benz also won the Sports Car World Championship in what was the most successful motorsport year for the brand until then.
Assistance and navigation by the co-driver.
However, the co-driver was in demand as an assistant and co-pilot for a long time not only in motor racing, but also on entirely mundane trips. That was already the case when Bertha Benz started on the first long-distance drive in automotive history in 1888, taking her two teenage sons along. In the early motor cars, the co-driver not only had to read the map, but also expertly operate a claviature of petrol and oil pumps. This promptly earned him the moniker “grease monkey”. The co-driver was soon able to leave the pumping to the car’s mechanical system. And more and more increasingly ingenious systems were added.
Comfort and technology in a class of their own.
People quickly learned to appreciate and trust this assistance technology. This development reached an exemplary climax in the Mercedes-Benz 600 flagship saloon: the top-of-the-range model with ultra-powerful V8 engine was equipped with so-called comfort hydraulics, a true all-rounder. At the touch of a button, the doors could be closed, the sliding sunroof could be operated, the windows lowered and raised, the partition wall to the rear could be opened and closed, the boot lid actuated, the heating and ventilation flaps operated, the front and rear seats adjusted, the parking brake disengaged and the shock absorbers could be adjusted.
A four-speed automatic transmission and power steering were part of the comfort features of the saloon at any rate – and even a car phone was optionally available. Today, these things are common, back then they were absolutely visionary. Even the Pope, for whom a special model 600 was built, was enthusiastic about it.
Today's flagship vehicles like the Mercedes-Maybach S 600 Pullman follow this excellent tradition. Passengers are seated on two Executive seats in the rear equipped with comprehensive comfort and multimedia features.
Mercedes-Maybach S 600 Pullman combined: 11.7 l/100 km, CO2 emissions combined: 274 g/km.
Autonomous driving as a vision of the future.
However, a road map or atlas were still indispensable tools for route guidance at the premiere of the Mercedes-Benz 600. This changed on 15 May 1995, when the first navigation system, the Auto Pilot System (APS), was offered in the S-Class.
Left: The car knows the correct route: navigation system in the S-Class of the model series 140, 1991 to 1998.
Right: Mercedes-Benz S-Class of the model series 140 from 1995 with Auto Pilot System (APS).
And navigation systems soon became available in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. They process the GPS satellite signals and data from the vehicle system. Using the example of the C-Class from the model series 202, the diagram symbolically illustrates how the on-board computer also processes the data from the ABS sensors alongside the signals of the GPS satellites.
One display, two screens.
This gives the co-driver new liberties – among them, the freedom of individual media use. To this end, Mercedes-Benz created intelligent possibilities such as the SPLITVIEW technology, which had its premiere in the S-Class in 2009. As a result, driver and passenger can see different content on the same display.
Leading the way into the future.
Die Forscher und Ingenieure denken zu diesem Zeitpunkt schon viel weiter: In dem europäischen Forschungsvorhaben „Prometheus“ fahren bereits um 1990 Automobile von Mercedes-Benz erstmals autonom auf der Autobahn. Das ist ein entscheidender Durchbruch für die Weiterentwicklung von Assistenzsystemen, die das autonome Fahren in unseren Alltag bringen werden.
Left: cockpit of the Mercedes-Benz VITA research vehicle, which prepared the ground for autonomous driving in the 'Prometheus' project in 1991.
Right: Autonomously driving S-Class: the Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL 'VaMP' in the 'Prometheus' research project drove autonomously in 1994.
The best co-driver today is the car itself.
That is what the Mercedes-Benz E-Class embodies, the world’s most intelligent executive saloon. The E-Class always knows where it is and what traffic is around it. Apart from a host of sensors, this is also ensured by exchanging data with other road users and the infrastructure (Car-to-X), which takes place via secured cloud functions. The assistance systems also include Active Brake Assist and Evasive Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist. The DRIVE PILOT in particular, in conjunction with the host of accident prevention systems, is an important step on the road to autonomous driving.
The vehicle actively helps to steer, keeps a safe following distance on all types of roads and optionally complies with the detected speed limits. Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive: the brand is getting ever closer to its goal of accident-free driving.
The future is HERE.
The vehicle’s ability to precisely pinpoint its own position will be even more important for tomorrow’s fully autonomous driving than it is today. As a shareholder, Daimler AG has therefore supported HERE since 2015, the leading technology provider for digital mobility. HERE supplies highly precise map data linked with location-based real-time information. This data results in the virtual image of the world through which automobiles will move in future: autonomously and safely. Enjoying the driver’s maximum trust – and of course that of the co-driver.