Mercedes Announces Self-Driving Limousine
The next version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine will offer a most unusual feature, according to a recent press release from the luxury automaker. The new S-Class limo will reportedly have a self-driving feature that will allow the chauffeur to put the vehicle on a kind of autopilot, using a network of 26 cameras, radars and sensors to maintain speed, direction, distance from other vehicles and other controls. However, Mercedes was quick to point out that the self-driving feature will not be able to operate the vehicle safely without being monitored by an actual driver. Like the autopilots used on aircraft, the driver will still have to observe and control the safe operation of the limo, but the self-driving feature will help to reduce driver fatigue and help avoid collisions.
Mercedes says that limousines equipped with Distronic Plus, the radar-based cruise control system, will not be available until late 2013, and prices will begin around $200,000. The system works by matching the speed and movements of a lead vehicle and maintaining a predetermined distance between the limo and the lead vehicle. While the system can take control of the steering, the driver will need to keep his hands on the wheel at all times. A torque sensor located in the steering column monitors pressure on the steering wheel, and, if it is unable to detect the pressure of at least one hand on the wheel, an array of buzzers and lights on the dashboard will alert the driver and disable the steering function of the system.
Mercedes claims that the Distronic Plus system will help “relieve motorists when driving is more of a burden than a pleasure – on the monotonous daily commute, for example, or in stop-and-go traffic”. Calling the system a “gradual introduction to autonomous driving,” Mercedes says that it is merely the first stage of a long developmental process to the driverless cars seen in science fiction movies and the next generation of accident-avoidance systems.
The system includes several important safety features, including vehicle and obstacle avoidance and a pedestrian detection system that Mercedes claims can completely prevent vehicle-pedestrian collisions at speeds up to 30 mph.
There may come a day when truly driverless cars are safe, reliable and a common sight on Bay Area roadways, but there will never be a day when we offer chauffeur-less San Francisco limousines to our guests. Without a nicely dressed, polite and professional chauffeur to greet our guests warmly, open their doors, answer their questions and transport them safely, a big part of the San Francisco limo experience would be missing. We are always on the lookout for new ways to enhance our guests’ limousine experiences, but we’re certain that automation is not the way to go. So, if you’re thinking about renting a San Francisco limo, party van or other luxury vehicle for a special event, just give us a call at NLS Limo at 800-339-8936. No extra charge for the chauffeur. We promise!