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The Self-driving Mercedes S-Class

Mercedes Benz has been working on hard on its driverless S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle, incorporating much of the advanced technology developed into this year’s S-Class.  The same technology drove Dieter Zetsche, Daimler CEO, to the stage at the Frankfurt Motor Show without a driver in order to present his speech.

With the vision and sensor technology already available and in-use on the 2013 production model of the Mercedes S-Class and E-Class, only the potential that still exists for mistakes and accidents prevented the car from being launched with “full driverless mode”.  The technology is already used to assist drives who don’t, or are unable to, react in dangerous situations and therefore avoid collisions.

Mercedes autonomously driving on motorway and inner town and city roadsMercedes Benz is one of the first motor manufacturers to demonstrate the feasibility of a vehicle driving autonomously on both motorway and inner town and city roads.  This includes high-speed travel as well as roundabouts, traffic lights, cyclists and pedestrians in heavy traffic, all of which are very complicated situations to assess and react to.  Dieter Zetsche said “this S-Class spells out where we’re headed with Intelligent Drive and what tremendous potential there is in currently available technology,”

Zetsche went on to say “For us, autonomous vehicles are an important step on the way to accident-free driving. They will bring greater comfort and safety for all road users. That’s because autonomous vehicles also react when the driver is inattentive or fails to spot something.”

The S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle uses a variety of cameras and sensors including a stereo camera, a colour camera to monitor traffic lights and environmental camera that picks up pre-mapped references and GPS to help determine the vehicles’ location. The Intelligent Drive system also has four short-range radar systems and three long-range radar systems to identify and avoid obstacles on the road.

The self-driving S-Class was monitored during an extensive testing procedure by trained safety drivers who would intervene immediately and take control of the vehicle when the vehicle misinterpreted a situation or made a mistake.  A record was made each time it became necessary for the safety driver to intervene and this data was then evaluated by the development team, allowing them to refine the cars ability to deal with the unpredictable nature of heavy traffic.  This is a full video of an extensive test undertaken by the team:

Merecedes Benz driverless S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicleHead of Daimler’s research and development Professor Thomas Weber said “With the new S-Class, we are the first to drive autonomously during traffic jams. We also want to be the first to bring other autonomous functions in series production vehicles. You can expect that we will reach this goal within this decade.”  Dieter Zetsche added “autonomous vehicles are an important step on the way to accident-free driving because they will bring greater comfort and safety for all road users.”

It’s not just Mercedes Benz working on driverless technology. At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, Toyota and Ford showcased their own developing technologies.

Toyota showcased its autonomous driving technologies at the show, via its Lexus brand. Group vice president and general manager Mark Templin showcased the 2013 Lexus LS model, which Toyota claims is equipped with the world’s most advanced pre-collision safety system.

Ford demonstrated its in-car integration of the Android app Kaliki at the show, which curates the top news stories from major newspapers and magazines and provides an audio version for on-demand playback in the vehicle.

Read more about Intelligent Drive Technology here or if you’re looking to buy a current mode, go here for Mercedes Benz finance.

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