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Cars that navigate complex terrain or urban environments have already been built for competitions like the DARPA's (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) various challenges. Mercedes-Benz is now further developing the technology with an eye on future generations of safety and assistance systems.
Mercedes-Benz is the first vehicle maker worldwide to introduce an innovative proving method into its test driving portfolio--safety-critical driving maneuvers that cannot be precisely reproduced by people are now being handled by autopilot on closed test tracks. Automated driving supports the development, testing and validation of assistance systems and other safety features. Additionally, testing at the limit can now be carried out without danger and health risks to development engineers.
Some of the scenarios that would be virtually impossible to reproduce manually include merging at different speeds and distances, high-risk tests where, for example, a vehicle brakes heavily in front of another that swerves at the last minute, and safety-critical tests whereby, at an intersection, one vehicle crosses just in front of or behind the path of a second vehicle.
The vehicles used in the test regime are regular production models equipped with "robots" for steering, acceleration and braking. An on-board computer controls the autopilot so that a pre-programmed course is followed exactly--even if several vehicles are involved in one maneuver.