Mercedes and Audi show driverless cars

We’ve heard a lot about self-driving cars in recent months. Initially it was Google’s quirky research vehicles that were grabbing the headlines, but in 2015 it will be the mainstream manufacturers. Mercedes-Benz and Audi have been quick off the mark in the New Year with news of their developments in self-driving technology.

Mercedes-Benz is due to unveil its F 015 research vehicle today at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Audi aims to grab some of the headlines at the same show by driving an Audi A7 Sportback on a 560-mile journey to Las Vegas from Silicon Valley, near San Francisco. Audi says much of the route was “driven on autopilot”.

Mercedes-Benz F 015 research vehicle

It is the Mercedes-Benz that is bound to grab more headlines as it is the German marque’s vision of what an ‘autonomous’ vehicle would look like and is designed from the outset for that purpose.

It is a streamlined design with a flat front windscreen. Under those sleek lines, the body structure is said to be extremely rigid, yet lightweight. Mercedes-Benz say it weights about 40% less than current cars of a similar size.

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 is about the same length as a long wheelbase S-Class at 5.22 metres, but is both wider and taller. The interior has been designed as a mobile living space with four individual lounge chairs. Access is by twin rear-hinged doors that open to 90 degrees. The seats also swivel to make it easier to get in and out.

The interior trim is luxurious with walnut veneer, glass, white nappa leather and aluminium. Not surprisingly, for a 21st century car, connectivity has been a prime consideration and the F 015 has six screens controlled by eye-tracking and gesture recognition.

Mercedes-Benz F 015 research vehicle

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 is designed to be operated in manual or autonomous modes. LED light modules on the front indicate which mode it is operating in. White indicates it is being driven manually, with a cool blue colour showing it is in autonomous mode. In manual mode, the front seats automatically swivel to face forward and the steering wheel emerges from the dashboard.

The F 015 is designed to be capable of being powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Audi A7 piloted drive

Meanwhile Audi’s self-driver is a much more conventional looking Audi A7. Audi say it uses various “production-ready” sensors as well as sensors already used in production vehicles to detect its surroundings.

Adaptive cruise control and Audi side-assist long-range radar sensors and mid-range radar sensors at the front and rear of the vehicle are directed to the left and right. This provides a 360-degree view of the car’s environment. In addition, laser scanners integrated into the grille and rear bumper, along with an array of video cameras, provide detailed recognition of objects around the car.
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