Sunnyvale, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2014) – As one of the first automobile manufacturers permitted to do so, Mercedes-Benz has been testing autonomously driving automobiles on public roads in the US state of California since September. In addition, the company will from now on also use Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS), the largest test bed site in the US, for further testing of its future technology.
“We can use the test site in Concord, California, to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations”, explained Dr Axel Gern, head of autonomous driving at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Inc. (MBRDNA). “Taken in conjunction with the results of our test drives on public roads, these tests will help us with the ongoing development of our autonomous cars.” The focus of research nevertheless continues to lie on the tests undertaken in a real-life environment, he emphasized.
The auto manufacturer was able to provide impressive proof of the viability of autonomous driving in today’s complex urban and inter-city traffic already last year: In August 2013 the Mercedes-Benz S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE, a new-model S-Class equipped with near-production-standard technology, drove fully autonomously the 100 km distance between the German cities of Mannheim and Pforzheim, following the historic route taken by Bertha Benz.
Since mid-September of this year Mercedes-Benz, as one of the pioneers of autonomous driving, has also held the official license from the US state of California to test self-driving vehicles on public roads. The additional testing opportunities provided by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority at the CNWS site will enable the company to expand significantly the scope of its research activities.
The test site in the south-west of the US features a network of surfaced roads resembling an urban grid plan, making it an ideal location for testing autonomously driving vehicles in surroundings that are as close to real life as they can be. For security reasons the testing ground, which is operated by the US Navy in conjunction with the City of Concord and the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority, is not accessible to the public. With a test area covering 2,100 acres, the CNWS site is currently the largest and most secure test bed site in the US.