Mercedes-Benz: The self-driving S-Class

Will we drive in the future instead of driving ourselves? And if so, what does this future look like? The Erlkönig for the “self-driving future” at Mercedes-Benz, whose premiere will take place at the CES 2015 in Las Vegas, is hidden behind this link. 

The driver thinks the S-Class is steering

A first ride in the self-driving S-Class from Mercedes-Benz

Bertha approaches the traffic light crossing cautiously. Unlike at home in Schwabeländle, Bertha has to look a little further into the intersection here in the USA to find the right traffic light. But that works really well. Spotted a red light? Then Bertha talks to us and tells us about the recognized situation. Bertha is the name of the S-Class that is currently chauffeuring us through the town of Sunnyvale on predetermined routes. As journalists, we have to sit on the back seat, while the test and development engineers sit on the two seats in front. In addition to legal requirements, the insurance question has not yet been clarified. Because Bertha is still one thing above all else: a sinfully expensive test vehicle. Mercedes has set up a Research and Development Center here in sunny southern California. And here in Sunnyvale, the future of autonomous driving is born. This is also due to its prominent neighbors, including the Internet company Google. Its advance in the direction of "autonomous driving”Caused quite a stir a few weeks ago.

Chauffeured limousine made in Stuttgart

While the Google variant is primarily reminiscent of an oversized Playmobil car, Mercedes-Benz attaches importance to a little remaining standing honor with its own test vehicle. Under the hood of the S500, the 455 hp bi-turbo V8 heart beats and inside you can be sure not to succumb to any lack of comfort. Even though “Bertha” can still be clearly recognized as a test vehicle. A large monitor is set up between the driver and front passenger; a red emergency stop button sits prominently on the dashboard. Bertha presents her knowledge on the display. Everything that the sensors detect is displayed by the self-driving vehicle. Lane markings, other cars, signals and obstacles. The way the car understands it, but here in the United States, where the legislature has for the first time been allowed to test autonomous cars on public roads, there is always a passenger on board. He controls the on-board systems and, like the driver, can intervene in what is happening.

Autonomous driving in the cities of the USA is just not as easy as the overland tour of “Bertha” in This year in Swabia, Some of the inner cities are crossed with four to six lanes, the traffic lights hang behind the intersection and at so-called 4-Way intersections you have to agree on the right of way among road users. But Bertha can only react. And she certainly does, but always with the sensible extra portion of caution. Bertha drives us safely through Sunnyvale on a specially mapped circuit. She always recognizes red traffic lights and rolls sensitively towards the intersection. The information from additional radar systems for environment detection in the near field, from a special camera in the windshield for US traffic lights and the entire package of security systems from the current S-Class are put together by Berthas' computer brain to form a virtual landscape. Bertha recognizes cyclists, pedestrians and other road users with impressive security and acts accordingly. Bertha always remains at a little extra distance to the other drivers and drives rather calm and defensive.

Computer brain in the trunk

Even if it looks like magic to us as passengers, how the S-Class navigates through the city alone, on board Bertha you can see what a great deal of effort is still required for the autonomous journey. The fans for the computer systems are still humming louder than the V8 Turbo and the trunk is home to Bertha's computer brain.

But the path taken by technology is clear: if in the future I was offered an S-Class that completely relieved me of traffic jams and stop-and-go traffic or mastered my daily routine route to the airport early in the morning, then I would be the last one who would rant about the downfall of the “automobile of the West”.

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