Autonomous long-distance drive.
In the tracks of Bertha Benz.
In August 1888, Bertha Benz set off on her famous first long-distance automobile journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim. In doing so, the wife of Carl Benz demonstrated the suitability of the Benz patent motor car for everyday use and thus paved the way for the worldwide success of the automobile. Precisely 125 years later, in August 2013, Mercedes-Benz recorded a no less spectacular pioneering achievement following the same route. Developed on the basis of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle autonomously covered the approximately 100 kilometres between Mannheim and Pforzheim. Yet, unlike Bertha Benz all those years ago, it did not have the road “all to itself”, but had to negotiate dense traffic and complex traffic situations.
Partially automated driving is already available to drivers of new Mercedes-Benz E and S-Class models: the new DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot is capable of steering the vehicle mainly autonomously through traffic jams. This system thus forms the core of “Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive”, the intelligent networking of all safety and comfort systems.
Technology platforms based on the E and S-Class.
Unnoticed by the public, yet authorised by appropriate official exemptions and certificates from the TÜV (German Technical Inspection Authority), testing of the “Route Pilot” on the Bertha Benz route began in early 2012 with a total of three technology platforms based on the E and S-Class, which are equipped with all available active and passive safety systems. These test vehicles employed only those sensor technologies that are already today used in similar form in Mercedes-Benz standard-production vehicles. Based on these sensor data and determination of the vehicle’s own position with reference to information from a digital map, an autonomously driving vehicle analyses the available free area for driving and plans its own route.
Challenges on the path to autonomous driving.
Many of the things that are already technically feasible are still not universally permitted. Just as when the automobile was originally invented, it will first of all be necessary to build up confidence in the technical capabilities of the systems. This is borne out by a recent study carried out by the Customer Research Centre at Mercedes-Benz involving around 100 test persons aged between 18 and 60. The initial scepticism of the study participants was almost entirely dispelled following an autonomous drive in the driving simulator.