LAS VEGAS — The show floor in the North Hall of the 2015 International CES was buzzing today with news about Mercedes-Benz’s ambitious prototype of a self-driving car. Mercedes took the car for a joyride on the Vegas Strip last night, and it performed beautifully with nobody behind the wheel.
The car — called the Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion — uses a series of sensors, cameras, and radar systems to detect where it’s going, and what to watch out for. The inside of the car is a spacious capsule with rounded seats that face each other. In case someone does want to take (human) control of the car, a steering wheel is available.
Many of the players in the auto industry are here in Las Vegas and talking about their movement toward a fully autonomous car. But no car is currently available on the market. The technology is simply not there yet.
As Ford chief technology officer Raj Nair explained to me, it’s not enough to have a single navigation device like a radar to guide a self-driving car. You have to have two other navigation systems behind the first one in case it fails.
Mercedes says its self-driving car won’t be available until 2030 or so, and it may not look like the one that drove down the Strip last night. The main reason Mercedes won’t sell such a car earlier is the high price of all the sensors, cameras, and radar systems — and the software that runs it all.
Until the prices of those components come down, we probably won’t see too many autonomous cars on the road.