In August of 1888, Bertha Benz, the wife of automotive pioneer Karl Benz, drove her 13- and 15-year-old sons on the first long-distance auto trip, 64 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim in southwestern Germany, stopping at pharmacies for gasoline and at a shoemaker’s to devise a leather brake pad.
Now, Mercedes-Benz has announced that in August, its S-500 Independent Drive retraced the trip without needing any human guidance. A person was behind the wheel for legal reasons, but the car’s eight computer-guided cameras–one in color, one stereo, and one rear-facing–and multiple radar sensors navigated town and village as well as highway traffic without needing any intervention.
Less than two weeks ago, Nissan announced that the age of the driverless car is less than seven years away. But Mercedes representatives told the press that the barriers standing in the way now aren’t technical–they’re legal and social. So far, 13 U.S. jurisdictions have introduced legislation on self-driving cars.
[Image: Flickr user DeeJayRes]