Mercedes Celebrates 30 Years Of Self-Driving Car Initiatives

Sep 22, 2016 12:28 PM EDT | Sovan Mandal


Tesla and its Autopilot system might be all the craze at the moment though what should come as a surprise to many is the fact that Mercedes had perfected much of the technology that now goes into the making of a self-driving car almost three decades back.

That was all part of a project that Daimler had initiated back in the 80s and was named Prometheus, short for "Program for a European traffic of highest efficiency and unprecedented safety." It was pretty ambitious at the time and considering the technologies that the automaker had at its disposal back then.

Mercedes also wasn't alone as several other car makers along with component suppliers, electronic companies along with universities and research organisations had chipped in to help make the project a success, Motor1 reported.

It was 8 years of hard work and the result was nothing short of being spectacular even given by today's standards. All of it yielded an S Class sedan that came to be fitted with a system termed VITA or Vision Information Technology Application. It comprised of several camera the individual fees from which were then fed to a central computer for further processing.

It was the job of the computer to decide if the car was travelling in the right direction or if there are obstacles in front and so on. The system can also be termed as truly autonomous as it had direct control over the car's steering, brakes and throttle and could operate any of these as the situation so demanded.

Also of course all of it was put to test in real world condition. The VITA enabled S Class was able to drive for 1,043 miles from Munich to Copenhagen on its own, changing lanes, braking or overtaking when needed without human intervention, reported Auto Evolution. It was even able to reach speeds of up to 115 mph on the Autobahn.

The one limitation that they had to face back then was computing power and corresponding size of the same. However, times have changed so that even smartphones of the day are more powerful than the supercomputers of the 70s. That combined with the growing clamour for autonomous cars at the moment, Mercedes no doubt has a solid footing to rise to the occasion that many of its peers might be lacking.

The video below porivides an inkling of what the future might have for us.

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