Frankfurt - Shanghai - Melbourne - Cape Town - Las Vegas. These are more than just five major cities on five continents. These are above all five cities with entirely different traffic situations and challenges. And they are five stops of the Intelligent World Drive of Mercedes-Benz.
Gathering valuable experiences in complex traffic situations
As the world´s first automaker, Mercedes-Benz will operate an "intelligent" automated test mule based on an S-Class each month on a different continent. The goal of the Intelligent World Drive ist to capture, process and interpret highly complex traffic situations in tight urban and other environments - the key for safe automated and autonomous driving.
Individualization of the driving assistance systems
Granted, all continents see heavy urban traffic. But there are indeed also major differences in the infrastructure and cultures including different driving styles and practices. For example, stopping at a crosswalk is not common in all countries. Just try to assert your "right of way" as a German pedestrian at a crosswalk in a southern European country of your choice.
Technical and social aspects
However, the technical side of the Intelligent World Drive - that is to say the systematic compilation of situations, experiences and data - is just one aspect. The social component is equally important: This involves getting into contact with people all over the world, soliciting feedback and opinions, and stimulating discussions about the personal mobility of the future.
I am curious to see what ideas, wishes and maybe eben fears people of different origins associate with automated driving. Because our goal in the long run is to offer maximum relief not only to the business traveler on German autobahns, but also to the commuter in Melbourne and the courier in Beijing.
The experiences and collected data of the Intelligent World Drive will allow Mercedes-Benz to test and develop automated vehicles with real customer benefit in more targeted fashion. In future, a Mercedes and its driving assistance systems will have to adapt dynamically to the driver, the country and the surroundings. Safety and due diligence must always come first in this regard.
Still needed: legal framework and infrastructure
Another challenge lies in the different national legal situations. "Progress musn´t stop at national borders", says Daimler Chief Development Officer Ola Källenius. However, this is not as self-evident as it sounds. The legislation must keep up with the technical development. Legal certainty is a prerequisite for the acceptance of autonomous driving. Action is required, especially with regard to international conventions on traffic law, which at the moment still mandate a driver.
DIGITAL LIGHT: Projection of trails of light onto the road
Speaking of driving assistance systems, another innovation that will also be tested during the trip around the world is a headlight prototype: the DIGITAL LIGHT technology. The lights will play a key role on the road to automated and autonomous mobility. DIGITAL LIGHT makes functions possible, which were presented as future visions in the F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle a mere two years ago: non-dazzling permanent high-beams in HD quality featuring chips with over a million micromirrors and thus pixels per headlight. Among other things, DIGITAL LIGHT is able to project trails of light such as a crosswalk onto the road to communicate with the surroundings or trailing vehicles. There are no limitations to the imagination...