But, rather than certain other manufacturer’s self-driving prototype vehicles, this particular S 500 dealt with traffic lights, roundabouts, pedestrians, cyclists and trams using technology that is largely already available in the current E-Class and S-Class models. The core of the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive, the Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot, is capable of steering the vehicle mainly autonomously through traffic jams with the driver overseeing these functions.
Modifications include two long-range radars on the sides of the front bumper to provide early detection of vehicles coming from the left or right at junctions, one to monitor traffic at the rear, and a short-range radar on each corner of the car to improve detection of the nearer surroundings and other road users. A colour camera behind the windscreen monitors traffic lights, while one in the rear window locates the vehicle by comparing what it sees with features previously entered on a 3D digital map providing greater accuracy than GPS alone. The map was developed jointly between Mercedes-Benz and KIT and HERE, a division of Nokia.
“This S-Class spells out where we’re headed with “Intelligent Drive” and what tremendous potential there is in currently available technology. Of course, it would have been a lot easier to take the autobahn for the autonomous drive from Mannheim to Pforzheim. But there was a special motivation for us to carry out this autonomous drive along this very route 125 years after Bertha Benz. After all, we wouldn’t be Mercedes-Benz unless we set ourselves challenging goals and then went on to achieve them,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG CEO and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.