Daimler-Benz reported that its S500 Independent Drive has retraced the route of the first long distance auto journey made in 1885 by the wife of car pioneer Karl Benz with the means of eight computer guided cameras and multiple radar sensors.
Though a Benz employee was behind the wheel to satisfy the law, the 104 km journey between the towns of Mannheim and Pforzheim was made under autonomous power, the massive S-Class limo accelerating and slowing to the designated speed limit, stopping at red lights and zebra crossings then re-starting under its own cognition. The ‘driver’ did not intervene.
The revelation was made by Daimler AG head of research Professor Thomas Weber who says that 53 km of Bertha Benz’s original journey now runs though busy towns and villages. The journey on which Frau Benz packed her two sons aboard the three-wheeler without her husband’s knowledge for an epic day trip was the first long range drive, a journey regularly commemorated by alternative energy vehicles.
This, however, is the first time the drive has been made without the human element. While autonomous driving is achievable by a growing number of cars in freeway conditions, Weber says this technology permits almost total ‘driver’ disengagement from the tedium of commuting. The caveat, such as it is, takes the form of the S500 ID’s inability to recognize pedestrians waving the car to proceed – which since this never happens is negligible. Even so, Weber says, “We will ensure the electronic driver learns to recognize sign language.”
So after ‘smartphones’ we now have ‘smartcars’?