The Intelligent World Drive initiative was launched at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung) in September. The German automaker now wants to take its systems and tech to the next level by testing them in different parts of the world.
A Mercedes-Benz S‑Class has been automated, for an initiative called Intelligent World Drive, for test purposes to face a variety of complex traffic situations. In efforts of gathering valuable experience on the road to autonomous driving, the car will be tested on 5 continents. It began its first leg in Frankfurt – Germany, where it was launched. The vehicle then went to Shanghai in Asia and it will now move to Melbourne –Australia. It will then come to Cape Town in December and then the last stop will be the CES (International Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in January.
Around the World
Different tests are set out in each country it will visit to accumulate information on a broad scale. The Intelligent World Drive in Germany focused on the AutoBahn’s specific driving behaviour on highways and in traffic-jam situations. This is considered an important module in the development of future technologies. In Shanghai, the focus is on driving behaviour in heavy traffic of the metropolis.
In Australia, between Sydney and Melbourne, the focus will be put on the validation of the latest HERE digital map data (a company similar to Garmin). The main focus in SA will be pedestrian detection in new situations, which forms a major part of this process. The last stretch of the Intelligent World Drive will be in the Greater Los Angeles region toward Las Vegas. It will focus on evaluating the driving behaviour in heavy American urban traffic and traffic jam situations. This will also include when traffic is overtaking on the right on highways.
Report from leg two of the Intelligent World Drive in China
In China, the government is strict about who drives on their roads. Foreign motorists require a Chinese driving license because the roads differ in many facets from that in Europe or the States. Some such examples are the pedestrian crossings on the highway, different speed limits for each lane and the road signs/lane markings are all in Chinese. And to confuse things more, Chinese characters have diverse or even numerous meanings.
But it was important for the German automaker to collect worldwide insights and they made Shanghai happen. Some examples given by Mercedes-Benz of the Chinese traffic include the short white lines, which is commonly known as pedestrian crossings around the world, were found on the highways. But these signs were not to signify a pedestrian crossing but rather the minimum distance between vehicles. Now, why is this important for Mercedes? It’s important because the sensors on the car need to recognize and acknowledge correctly which is which. The same concept goes for the speed limits per lane.
Parking is also a challenge as parking spaces differ in size. They are also commonly filled with obstacles that are difficult for the sensors to detect. Such “national features” depict the importance of gathering insights from around the world from real-life traffic in order to adapt automated driving functions to particular practices and conditions.
Mercedes-Benz has in the past seven years conducted over 5000 test drives in 175 test mules. These were conducted around the world for validations of driver assistance systems. The performance of these driver assistance systems was measured in roughly 9.5 million kilometres. It took place around Australia, China, Europe, South Africa, and the USA.
On the road to autonomous driving, city traffic is one of the biggest challenges faced by the automakers. That’s why it is incredibly important for them to master highly complex traffic situations. In addition, the test drive in Shanghai also focussed on the “infrastructure peculiarities”.
Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development said, “In this way not only do our vehicles become more intelligent, they also become safer.”