- 30 years of research into autonomous driving starting with the EUREKA-PROMETHEUS, developed in 1985
- A broad range of driver assistance systems – under the banner ‘Intelligent Drive’ – are available across the range – designed to improve safety and driver comfort
- The S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE follows autonomously in the tracks of Bertha Benz in 2013
- The F 015 Luxury in Motion autonomous concept vehicle – demonstrated last week in San Francisco – underscores Mercedes-Benz’s vision of autonomous driving in the future
With research spanning 30 years Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated a commitment to autonomous driving. An autonomous future is closer than it has ever been before with a range of semi-autonomous technology available across the line-up.
This semi-autonomous technology – under the banner ‘Intelligent Drive’ – is available across the range from the C-Class to the S-Class. Examples include DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot – the vehicle automatically brakes and accelerates based on the car in front and can even follow the car ahead without any steering input from the driver, whilst Active Parking Assist with PARKTRONIC helps detect suitable parking spaces and can automatically manoeuvre the vehicle into the space.
While this technology brings Mercedes-Benz one step closer to an autonomous future this mobility revolution has to take place in a series of steps. Despite this Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated autonomous driving capabilities since 1985 with the EUREKA-PROMETHEUS research project, S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE and F 015 Luxury in Motion.
Daimler-Benz and a group of European Manufacturers kick-started the research into autonomous cars with the EUREKA-PROMETHEUS research project (Project for European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety). The project – over an eight-year period – addressed issues surrounding the future of mobility and suggested ways to improve vehicle safety, efficiency and traffic flow. The result was the VITA-vehicle (Vision Technology Application) which used miniature video cameras behind the front and rear windscreens to capture the traffic around the vehicle enabling it to brake, accelerate and steer accordingly. The origins of a broad range of innovations, such as lane-change, parking assistance and navigation systems can all be traced back to this research project.
An S-Class prototype test vehicle – equipped with an early supercomputer – travelled from Munich to Copenhagen almost entirely autonomously on motorways and was able to change lanes, overtake and keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. As a result of this prototype in 1998 Distronic adaptive cruise control entered production in the S-Class. From this technology Mercedes-Benz was able to develop a succession of assistance systems capable of detecting hazardous situations, warning the driver and, ever more frequently, intervening.
A broad range of driver assistance system were introduced in 2010 – now under the banner ‘Intelligent Drive’ – enabling vehicles to detect many hazardous situations and react as the situation demands. This includes; Collision Prevention Assist – standard across the range, Active Blind Spot Assist – the system detects a vehicle in the driver’s blind spot and, by means of one-sided braking can reduce the risk of collision, Active Lane Keeping Assist – which works with ESP to pull the vehicle back into its lane if the driver unintentionally crosses the lane marking and Active Parking Assist – which uses electromechanical direct steering to navigate the vehicle into a parking space.
In 2013, Mercedes-Benz demonstrated that autonomous driving is already possible, even in complex urban and rural traffic. The close-to-production Mercedes-Benz S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE completed a 62-mile journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim fully autonomously using production-based sensors – following the route taken in 1888 by Bertha Benz on the first ever long-distance car journey.
With the F 015 Luxury in Motion, Mercedes-Benz demonstrates what form ‘Intelligent Drive’ might take in the future. The car’s role is evolving from merely a means of transport towards a comfortable place for passengers to utilise their new-found free time.
The electric-hybrid system has a total range of 684-miles and can operate in manual or autonomous modes. The driver is connected to the outside world via a choice of six screens integrated throughout the interior, controlled via eye-tracking, gesture recognition or touch. The F 015 – designed from the outset as an autonomous car – was launched at CES in Las Vegas, with the first press test ‘rides’ taking place last week in San Francisco.
This autonomous concept car is based on a future scenario – ‘Vision 2030+’ – where the already limited space in today’s cities becomes ever more restricted and autonomous driving is socially accepted. A major part of everyday trips will be covered in autonomous mode – creating a new driving culture – freeing up time for the driver and creating a retreat for passengers.