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BAIC, Mercedes Announce Firsts in Autonomous Vehicles

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Autonomous car Las Vegas.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Self-driving across the highways of Nevada.

In self-driving car news, Bloomberg has reported that the Chinese automaker BAIC is the first company that will allow customers to ride in autonomous cars, and Daimler has announced that its new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the world’s  first standard-production vehicle to be awarded a test license to drive itself in the U.S. State of Nevada.

Future Traffic Environment?

As many as 10 BAIC electric cars will run on a course as large as three football fields, featuring traffic lights, faux housing, and a fake hospital. BAIC is building the 5-acre course near the Beijing Auto Show, which starts in April. The autonomous vehicles, with customers as passengers, will share the course with human-driven vehicles for a realistic experience.

Rong Hui, assistant president of BAIC Motor Corp., is overseeing the autonomous driving project. He said, “We aim to demonstrate to the public what the traffic environment will look like in the future.” BAIC, which is owned by the Beijing municipal government, makes cars with Hyundai Motor Co. and Daimler AG.

Self-Driving Mercedes

Speaking of Daimler, it says that Nevada has approved three standard production E-Class vehicles to drive themselves. Until this point, companies seeking to test self-driving vehicles on roads had to create dedicated test vehicles equipped with special hardware and software, including extra sensors, modified steering, and an adapted electronic stability program. But this new production E-Class Mercedes already is extensively equipped with intelligent technology. For these test drives, Mercedes only needs to make some  tweaks to its DRIVE PILOT control-unit software.

Nevada passed its autonomous driving regulations in June 2011, and two self-driving Daimler trucks have been operating on public roads in that state since May 2015. Stu Robarts, writing for Gizmag, calls Nevada a trailblazer, noting that the state issued licenses to Google and Audi in 2013, allowing their self-driving test vehicles on public roads.

Robarts quoted Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval:

By collaborating with revolutionary, sustainable and creative endeavors Nevada is working to be at the forefront of emerging innovative technologies. 

Self-driving tests are permitted on all interstates and state highways in Nevada. Actual drivers will be required only for turning, merging, and departing. Specially trained test drivers will carry out autonomous test drives in everyday traffic.

To prevent car accidents, rules from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles also say that there must be one passenger behind the wheel and a second passenger in the vehicle on test drives. The test vehicles are identified by a red license plate reserved for autonomous driving.


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