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Mercedes-Benz and Monocle magazine have taken a look in this new video at the Mercedes-Benz S 500 Intelligent Drive, which made history last year by driving through a range of urban and intercity routes autonomously. The research vehicle retraced the roughly 100 km route that Bertha Benz, wife of Karl Benz, took on the world’s first long-distance drive over 125 years ago on the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

The Mannheim-to-Pforzheim route was littered with regular moving traffic, pedestrians, traffic lights, intersections, roundabouts and roadworks, all of which the Intelligent Drive had to negotiate, just like any normal driver. The technology used is not far removed from that on the new W222 S-Class, with eight radar sensors and three cameras feeding information to an onboard computer which processes them in real time.

The algorithms used for the car to plot its own route were developed in collaboration with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Mercedes-Benz also worked with Nokia-owned HERE mapping service to map out a 3D digital map specifically designed for autonomous vehicles (including the number and direction of lanes and the placement of traffic lights) which the Intelligent Drive could refer to when making decisions.

This recent test is the latest result of years of research into the study of autonomous driving beginning in 1986, which resulted in test vehicles that could already change lanes, overtake and keep a safe distance on highways nearly 20 years ago.

One of the key developments of the project is the production Distronic adaptive cruise control system, which in addition to Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot on the new S-Class can now keep the car in the centre of the lane and maintain a set distance to the car in front even in traffic jams.