Self-driving across the highways of Nevada

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Prof. Thomas Weber (left) receiving the test license from Gov. Sandoval.

Prof. Thomas Weber (left) receiving the test license from Gov. Sandoval.

New Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets test license for autonomous driving

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The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the world’s first standard-production vehicle to be awarded a test license for autonomous driving in the US state of Nevada. Three standard-production E-Class vehicles were approved to drive themselves in time for the leading trade fair for consumer technology Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a fortnight ago.

To allow autonomous driving functions to be tested, test vehicles previously had to be equipped with special hardware and software. These included additional sensors, modified steering and an adapted electronic stability program (ESP). That is no longer the case with the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The standard-production vehicle is already extensively equipped with intelligent technology. This means that, for testing purposes, it is necessary merely to make some smaller software modifications to the “Drive Pilot” control unit.

“The fact that Mercedes- Benz is the world’s first vehicle manufacturer to be awarded such a license shows that we are a step ahead when it comes to autonomous driving. The new E-Class is therefore another big step to the fully automated vehicle,” said Prof. Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

“Nevada is proud to serve as the location where Daimler, an international automotive leader, can explore and test the possibilities of its cutting-edge autonomous vehicle,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada. “By collaborating with revolutionary, sustainable and creative endeavors, Nevada is working to be at the forefront of emerging innovative technologies.”

Self-driving tests are permitted on all interstates and state highways in Nevada, with human drivers being required only for turning, merging and departing. The autonomous test drives in everyday traffic will be carried out by specially-trained test drivers. Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles rules also stipulate that there must be one passenger behind the wheel and a second passenger in the vehicle on test drives. The test vehicles are identified by a red license plate reserved for autonomous driving.

Nevada passed regulations on autonomous driving back in June 2011 and is seen as a pioneer. The desert state’s road network, landscape and traffic volume are highly representative of road conditions in the United States. Two self-driving Daimler trucks have been in operation on public roads since May 2015.

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