Automotive

Mercedes "Bertha Benz" autonomous car drives into retirement

Mercedes "Bertha Benz" autonom...
The "Bertha Benz" autonomous car was named after the wife of Karl Benz 
The "Bertha Benz" autonomous car was named after the wife of Karl Benz 
View 4 Images
The "Bertha Benz" autonomous car was named after the wife of Karl Benz 
1/4
The "Bertha Benz" autonomous car was named after the wife of Karl Benz 
The autonomous car drove along the same 100-km (62-mi) route from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany that Bertha Benz drove in 1888
2/4
The autonomous car drove along the same 100-km (62-mi) route from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany that Bertha Benz drove in 1888
The "Bertha Benz" autonomous car is an S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle, which is now being retired
3/4
The "Bertha Benz" autonomous car is an S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle, which is now being retired
The "Bertha Benz" S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle is on show in the atrium of the Mercedes-Benz museum from July 26 until September 25
4/4
The "Bertha Benz" S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle is on show in the atrium of the Mercedes-Benz museum from July 26 until September 25

It is now fairly common for carmakers, including Kia, Volvo, Hyundai and Ford, to test their autonomous vehicles on public roads. In 2013, however, Mercedes carried out the first autonomous journey in everyday overland and city traffic with its "Bertha Benz" S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle, which is now being retired.

Mercedes says that Bertha, named after the wife of Karl Benz and the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance, was "equipped with close-to-production technology and abundant computing power." Its journey took it along the same 100-km (62-mi) route from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany that Bertha Benz drove in 1888 and showed that self-driving cars weren't just a pipe dream, but were technically possible.

Less than three years later, a "highly automated" standard-production E-Class was awarded a license for an autonomous driving trial on the roads of Nevada, showing how quickly self-driving technology has developed. Despite this, the car is still not allowed to be left entirely to its own devices in everyday traffic, with a number of areas still requiring development.

According to Mercedes, the interconnection of sensors requires optimization and the sensors themselves can be further improved. They are still said to be highly dependent on the weather, with heavy rain and snow both continuing to pose challenges. The ability for autonomous cars to identify the relevant set of traffic lights at a junction where there are many is also reported to require more work.

Elsewhere, development is ongoing for vehicles to connect with each other and with surrounding infrastructure, as well as to recognize environments through image interpretation. Here, so-called "deep learning computers" interpret images not pixel by pixel, but in their entirety, making the capability transferable to any location.

Mercedes says that the responsibility for safe driving in autonomous vehicles will still be the driver's, with them able to take control at any time. Its aim, though, is to minimize reliance on the the driver by having the vehicle be able to act autonomously in stressful situations.

The "Bertha Benz" S 500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle is on show in the atrium of the Mercedes-Benz museum from July 26 until September 25.

The video below shows the 2013 journey made by the Bertha Benz car.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE | research vehicle

2 comments
Mel Tisdale
If the system relies on cameras to positions the vehicle precisely, then any car parked overnight in the open will be unusable until any frost has melted and even then will be subsequently vulnerable to icing conditions. These can be added to the snow and rain which are already listed. When those are solved, perhaps fog might prove to be problematic for a camera based system. These autonomous vehicles will be more practical when all road vehicles are autonomous and can talk to each other about who goes first and where they are going (at road junctions etc.). Of course that might well put an end to bicycles', unless they can be made to comply with the standards required. Between now and the time all vehicles are fully autonomous there will be a long period where the old and the new are going to have to cope with each other. I imagine road rage will not be a thing of the past any time soon.
James Poirier
New York City's "Ground Zero" is the World Transportation Center (WTC), the point of origin for America's new driverless-car system. When you search "World Transportation Center" on the Google Maps app, Manhattan's former World Trade Center (WTC) comes up.