Daimler has released a video of its Mercedes-Benz S500 Intelligent Drive test vehicle completing a 100km autonomous drive through Germany.
The trip undertaken by this smarter-than-average Mercedes-Benz was from Mannheim to Pforzheim, along a route similar to the one used by Bertha Benz in the Benz Patent Motorwagen in 1888. The S500 Intelligent Drive’s eventual journey included villages and small cities, as well as rural roads and highways.
Getting from A to B wasn’t simply a case of punching a destination into the car’s sat nav, as Mercedes-Benz had to collaborate with Nokia’s Here mapping division to accurately model “every centimetre” from beginning to end in 3D. The Here team used aerial imagery and lidar data (below) to augment established maps to build this detailed virtual reality model.
The S500 Intelligent Drive prototype has been fitted out with radar at both the front and back of the car, as well as a stereoscopic camera, giving it 360-degree vision. Extra computing power is loaded into the boot and the software within is able to recognise cars, cyclists and other vehicles, as well as pedestrians, lane markings, signs, traffic lights and buildings.
It’s also able to operate the car’s brakes, steering and throttle to navigate along its chose path and avoid any obstacles. Unlike Google’s prototype autonomous vehicle that was revealed earlier this week, the S500 Intelligent Drive still has a steering wheel, pedals and other driver controls. Indeed, in the video above, the person in the driver’s seat can often be seen with his hands hovering over the steering wheel just in case.
Eberhard Kaus, the chief project engineer behind the S500 Intelligent Drive, says that car safety systems have a few benefits over humans, including faster reactions, a wider field of view and a lack of fatigue. He also sees some of the tech featured in his team’s car filtering down to production Mercedes-Benz vehicles. For instance, future Mercs could pilot themselves at up to 30km/h in traffic jams, allowing the driver to work or relax instead.