Head of research and development for Mercedes, Dr Thomas Weber, claims we’ll have to wait until 2020 before Mercedes launches a “fully autonomous” car. And that’s despite most of the technology needed to make it possible being already available today.
“Autonomous driving is a big part of our strategy for an accident-free future,” Weber said. “Technology wise, a lot is possible today, but there are three things that need to be improved first; better maps, more on-board computing power and legislation – not everything we can do is allowed yet.”
Mercedes was the first company to introduce ‘Steering Assist’, a system on the new S-Class that monitors the space around the car and steers automatically to keep the car in its lane and a set distance to the vehicle in front. The same system is now offered on the new C-Class.
Further autonomous systems, for example one that lets your car negotiate junctions on its own, will be added over the coming years, but the biggest challenge is creating cars that are genuinely useful to their owners.
Weber explained: “Do customers want to be able to sleep while the car is driving along, or check their e-mails perhaps? We need to find out exactly what customers want – all the research so far suggests that autonomous driving in certain situations – such as sitting in traffic on a commute – will be highly desirable.”