By on October 20, 2014

Mercedes-Benz-S-500-Intelligent-Drive-000

With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research.

Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous vehicles at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a military base decommissioned in 2005 that may be redeveloped in the future.

Until then, Concord will be used as a “starter city” for autonomous city driving and navigation research and development. The strategy allows Mercedes “to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations,” per the brand’s head of autonomous driving, Axel Gern.

As for why Concord and similar spaces, such as the NASA facility Google uses to test its commuter pod, are in play over actual cities, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski says “existing proving grounds are not challenging enough,” while real-life testing is “too challenging at this point.” Further, both spaces are owned by the federal government, bestowing researchers the opportunity to test their theories without the California legislature dictating otherwise.

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18 Comments on “Mercedes Turns Former Naval Base Into Autonomous Testing Ground...”


  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Every lumpy POS should be brown, just like Nature intended.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Not to worry Pete ;

    Mercedes sold thousands of poop brown W-116’s .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, and my dad owned one.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Got to love those 70’s Euro colors. Poop brown, poop green, that mustard yellow that every other Volvo wagon was. Orange, purple, etc.

      I miss them dearly.

      Color does seem to be coming back into style, slowly. Seeing lots of green, red, and yellow Fords around. Hopefully the Germans will brighten things up eventually. Audi especially needs to leave the funeral.

  • avatar
    CrapBox

    How would an autonomous vehicle differentiate between different types of road hazard? Could it distinguish between a squirrel and a small child running out into the road?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Well, one is 20X the size of the other. I suspect if you had a child dressed up for Halloween as a squirrel and used a shrink ray to get said child down to about 1.5 pounds, then it might be difficult to tell apart. At which point, I would wonder how many 80 year old drivers would be able to tell them apart.

      In other news, autonomous vehicles are coming, and sooner than you might expect. Regardless of how many absurd questions are created in a lame attempt to delay progress.

      • 0 avatar
        CrapBox

        Okay, then how would an autonomous vehicle distinguish between a bear cub and a small child? I’m asking not because I want to delay progress, but because I’ve observed most parents would do anything to protect their offspring. Introducing a new threat—however remote it may be—isn’t feasible.

        Also, how would autonomous vehicles deal with rapidly changing climatic or road conditions? In my next of the woods, it’s normal to be driving on damp pavement one moment and deadly ice the next.

        Humans are very good at perceiving nuances. Machines less so.

        Personally, I’m in favor of autonomous vehicles. Tailgating would become a thing of the past. Yahoo!

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “Okay, then how would an autonomous vehicle distinguish between a bear cub and a small child?”

          The Cub will look downcast and drunk, having not been to the World Series since 1908. And he has big ears.

          Seriously, I have no idea how this tech is workable right now.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          CrapBox,
          Remember what the standard is for autonomous driving to become realistic. It’s not: “Can this technology do better than the best driver in the most difficult circumstance?” Rather it’s: “does this technology drive as well as the average driver?”

          Given what I see on the road most days, that isn’t a very high bar.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          What difference does it make? I would try my best to avoid either one, and I expect an autonomous vehicle would do the same.

          The big difference is that the autonomous vehicle will always be 100% vigilant. It won’t be fiddling with cellphone, radio, turned around yelling at the kids, reading the paper, putting on makeup, eating, etc.. It also won’t be speeding.

          An autonomous vehicle doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be better than a human. It’s not a very high standard.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Exactly this.

            I’m a harmless idiot; I drive slowly and pay paranoid attention.

            I want autonomous cars for the *other* idiots.

          • 0 avatar
            CrapBox

            If an autonomous vehicle isn’t perfect, it will be programmed to err on the side of caution and the result will be a herky-jerky driving experience.

            I’m not worried about children. They’ll be safer than ever. I’m worried about the vehicle making sudden stops for things that deserve to be run over.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Here’s the million-dollar question: will I be able to drink bourbons in an autonomous car? Or pour myself into one after a night of debauchary?

  • avatar
    jmo

    Why is this in the US? Is Peenemünde occupied? What is Angela up to now? I knew she couldn’t be trusted.

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