Daimler bets the farm in Vegas on Merc self-driving cars

  • Self-driving E-Class cars take to freeways of Nevada.
  • State gives green light – but red plates – to test cars
  • Shouldn’t be, er, dicey with ‘intelligent’ technology

las vegas autonomous testing

AUTONOMOUS MERCS NEWEST STARS IN VEGAS: Thomas Weber (left), Daimler’s board member for group research, and Nevada’s governor Brian Sandoval with one of the red warning plates for the autonomous Mcercedes. Image: Quickpic, Mercedes-Benz

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Mercedes-Benz is betting the farm (so to speak) in America’s gambling state with the world’s first production vehicles to be given a licence there to test autonomous driving.

Visitors to the annual Consumer Electronics Show trade fair, on in Las Vegas for a period that started on January 6 2016, will be able to take a break from roulette and blackjack to see if three E-Class cars taking a spin on the interstate is such a big deal.

Perhaps the auto sound system will be playing ‘Viva, Las Vegas’.

The cars have been approved by the state to drive themselves – and, for the record, freeway speed-limits in Nevada range up to 130km/h. “The test vehicles have,”Daimer says, “been elaborately equipped with special hardware and software, including more sensors, modified steering and adapted electronics.”

WORLD FIRST FOR SUCH A LICENCE IN NEVADA

That, however, will not be the case with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class: production units are already extensively equipped with intelligent technology so that, for testing purposes, it was necessary only to make some small modifications to software in the Drive Pilot control unit.


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Thomas Weber, Daimler’s board member for group research and Mercedes’ car development, told The Corner in a media release: “That Mercedes-Benz is the world’s first automaker to be awarded such a licence shows we are a step ahead when it comes to autonomous driving.

“The new E-Class is another big step towards the fully automated vehicle.”

Nevada’s state governor Brian Sandoval added: “Nevada is proud to serve as the location for Daimler to explore and test its autonomous vehicles. Nevada will be working at the forefront of emerging technologies.”

SPECIALIST TEST-DRIVERS ALONG FOR THE RIDES 

The licence allows the cars to use all Nevada interstate and state highways with humans on board only for turning, merging and departing. The autonomous test drives in everyday traffic, Daimler says, will be carried out by specialist test-drivers though Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles rules also stipulate that there must be a human at the wheel (though, of course, not necessarily touching it or any other controls) and a second person in the vehicle during test drives.

The test vehicles are identified by a red licence plate reserved for autonomous driving.

Nevada passed regulations on autonomous driving back in June 2011 so is seen as a pioneer. The desert state’s road network, landscape and traffic volume are highly representative of road conditions in the US and two self-driving Daimler trucks have been in operation on public roads since May 2015.

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