Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive: Great (Driverless) Use of Metal

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Automotive, Humor
dieter zetsche mercedes S coupe

Dieter and the S-class coupe. Image still from

Mercedes Benz joins Google in the driverless car conversation, and with their top position in the auto market, what’s to stop them?

In August, Mercedes-Benz again saw double-digit growth in the US and China (including Hong Kong). In Germany, the US and Japan, the Mercedes-Benz continued to be the most registered premium manufacturer since the beginning of the year.

To celebrate, it’s car-show time!

At the IAA auto show in Frankfurt, Germany, Mercedes-Benz’ CEO Dieter Zetsche joked that “promises are like babies, easy to make, hard to deliver” on the topic of improving cars. A female assistant started up their 1886 (replica, presumably) three-wheeler on stage and drove off – an homage of sorts to Karl Benz’ wife Bertha, who was the first long-distance driver in the world.

This prelude eventually led to MB’s new (concept) “Intelligent Drive” version of the 2014 S500, which was driven the same 104-km stretch of road that Mrs. Benz originally covered around 125 years ago – but without human driver input this time. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – as Arthur C. Clarke said – and Zetsche’s comment around the new technologies being magic is no great exaggeration.

Take a look at how Zetsche introduced the car – from the back seat!

The production version of the 2014 version of the Mercedes S-class already has a long list of features (distance holding, lane departure alerts, automated braking based on proximity & speed) relying on cameras, radar and laser.

Back to the concept car: Zetsche explains that the Intelligent Drive version relies on the standard production sensors and a few add-ons – e.g. a color camera for stoplights, stereoscopic camera for remote object recognition and a rearward-facing camera to record physical landmarks. Hey – it’s like spend analysis, using where you’ve been to help you go forward! Expect these capabilities when government regulations permit them – rather when technology enables them. At a price, it could almost be available today.

In the near term, we can get the “standard” S-class (perhaps the new coupe version?). Incidentally, this S-coupe marks the end of the CL line and brings the high-end coupe line back to the “S” label. About time, and I hope the old “SEC” tag comes back with it.

Ending on a side note, it is a little surprising that the DoD isn’t preventing sales of these technological wonders to certain countries. Watch out for regulations once the first of these cars has had its control system hacked and loaded up with explosives…sad, yes, but someone will undoubtedly find a way do it.

Maybe that will turn into the ultimate nail in the coffin for self-driving cars – and the self-piloting planes currently being developed.

Thomas Kase is the lead analyst for MetalMiner’s sister site, Spend Matters.

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