The race to develop autonomous vehicles has been a rocky one. While many car manufacturers and tech companies work furiously to lead the way, testing continues to expose how far we still have to go before these machines could become commonplace. In some ways, the public is confused over what “self-driving” cars can do; and in other ways, car manufacturers are not necessarily clear on how to market them.
Take Mercedes-Benz, for example. The luxury car manufacturer recently released a summer magazine ad which described a “self-driving car from a very self-driven company.” Later, the Daimler AG luxury automobile company featured an ad showing a prototype vehicle with passengers facing each other before then cutting to a current vehicle that had a limited automatic steering function. The ad inquired, “is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself?”
Unfortunately, E-class sedan featured in these ads was not a self-driving car. Instead, it was a vehicle which featured a similar, earlier version of this technology known as Drive Pilot. This feature can initiate a lane change with automatic turn signal activation; it can also warn of potential collisions and automatically brake if the driver does not engage in time.
Ok. Confusion aside, is the world, in fact, ready for a truly autonomous vehicle?
Well, it appears that Mercedes-Benz may be trying to answer this question another. The German automaker has also recently let it be known they have plans to build autonomous cars that are not necessarily for transportation, but can act more like smart assistants.
According to Daimler board of director’s chairman, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, “We’ve already begun testing community-based parking in Stuttgart together with our partners at Bosch [and] it works using car sensors that can find empty spaces along a road and then share the information with the Mercedes back-end database. That information,” he says, “is then shared with other Mercedes cars.”
The hope, he alludes, is that the new feature will remember certain aspects of operations and then, for example, be able to determine better navigation destinations and even allot work hours, set up meeting calls and remind about appointments.
Dr. Zetsche goes on to say that while everyone is talking about “digitalization and connected cars, software alone will not be able to take you from A to B. it is the total package,” he continues, “that will take you from A to B.”