For those of you who have been to China, you have probably noticed that their highways are very different from those in the United States and Europe. For example, each lane in China has a different speed limit. But there are many other challenges and as a result, even visitors will have to obtain local driving licenses in order to drive there.
Now, with its variations and unfamiliar rules, you would probably wonder how autonomous or driverless cars would work, right? It’s even more complicated for cars that were developed and tested in Europe and the United States. So what exactly will happen if a car made from the west was brought to the east? Well, Mercedes-Benz tried it out and has found out. Two months ago, the German automaker started its Intelligent World Drive campaign during the Frankfurt Motor Show, and they boasted that one of its features is that the autonomous driving function adapts to other countries’ ways of driving.
It was the self-driving S-Class that Mercedes-Benz brought to Shanghai, and it was tested on the streets to gather an insight of the real-life traffic and driving situations of China. This information is tasked to help develop the technology.
Some of the challenges that the autonomous car faced stemmed from the high density of cars and other vehicles like two-wheelers and three-wheelers, the sheer number of pedestrians, and the associated traffic behaviour. Apart from that, the car also had to deal with signs and road markings that were different from European countries. One of them would be the white line on the road to denote the minimum distance between vehicles. Another thing that autonomous cars will have to learn would be the different speed limits of certain lanes. That’s another aspect to consider as this is not followed in the US and Europe. Lastly, parking may also be an issue, as there isn’t a standard space size used in China.
In the seven years the Mercedes Benz has had in developing this technology, it has conducted over 5,000 test drives worldwide, with a total of 175 test vehicles to develop driver assistance systems. Overall, they have driven almost 6 million miles in most continents, collecting more than 1.2 million measurements and readings of real life traffic situations.
Today, the company is making use of the five-month old program they call the Intelligent World Drive. Under this program, the S-Class sedan will travel to five different continents to study each place’s local data. The data collected will be used to develop autonomous car technology. The long-wheelbase sedan first did the test in Germany two months ago, and is currently in China to do further tests. Later this month, it will travel to Australia before it heads to South Africa in December.