The race for delivering street-wise autonomous vehicles is heating up as Mercedes-Benz recently received permission from the German government to conduct on-the-road tests of its experimental units.
This isn’t the first time that Mercedes-Benz was granted permission to test its autonomous vehicles. However, the latest approval involves the next generation of the carmaker’s autonomous prototypes, now installed with its newest software dubbed as Daimler Autonomous Vehicle Operating System (DAVOS). These autonomous prototypes are derived from the Mercedes-Benz V-Class (Viano) mid-size passenger van. These test vehicles are fitted with advanced Lidar sensors to allow the DAVOS software to do its work. DAVOS employs a graphic processor and deep-learning technologies to perform as expected.
With these technical specs, these new autonomous prototypes should be able to theoretically operate by themselves. However, two specially trained drivers will be on board each test car for safety reasons. By having these prototypes deployed in real-world conditions, Mercedes engineers would be able to fine-tune the DAVOS software.
These prototypes should allow Mercedes to inch closer to its goal of launching an autonomous vehicle in the near future. Mercedes has been saying it would launch a production autonomous car as soon as its self-driving technology is prepped for public use and as soon as related regulations have been put in place.
These developments come as Mercedes is getting ready to make a good presentation at the upcoming 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Its presence at CES will have a definitive impact on its new CASE corporate strategy that features four pillars: Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service and Electric Drive.
Ola Kallenius, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, remarked that their CASE strategy will help the carmaker shape the future of mobility. He noted that their goal is to transform the car into a platform for future mobility concepts as well as into a space offering a digital experience. In line with this CASE strategy, Mercedes will be presenting its Concept EQ and Vision Van concept at the 2017 CES.
Aside from Mercedes-Benz, fellow German premium carmakers BMW and Audi are also setting their eyes towards autonomous driving. Just recently, BMW announced its plans to commence testing of autonomous vehicles in the urban environment under its new iNext project, pending regulations. In fact, BMW has opened a new facility in Unterschleissheim, Germany, that is dedicated to vehicle connectivity and automated driving.
This facility will have around 2,600 employees working to develop the autonomous iNext project. Audi, meanwhile, unveiled in December 2016 its Audi Q2 deep learning concept that features a self-learning system. The Audi Q2 deep learning concept features sensor technology that employs two mono cameras and 10 ultrasonic sensors.