Mercedes Turns Former Naval Base Into Autonomous Testing Ground

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

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.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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15 of 18 comments
  • -Nate -Nate on Oct 20, 2014

    Not to worry Pete ; Mercedes sold thousands of poop brown W-116's . -Nate

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    • John Marks John Marks on Oct 20, 2014

      @krhodes1 And don't forget SAAB's 1960s-1970s "Your Liver Has Shut Down" Yellow. Also called Mustard. ATB, jm

  • CrapBox CrapBox on Oct 20, 2014

    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?

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    • CrapBox CrapBox on Oct 20, 2014

      @krhodes1 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.

  • S2k Chris S2k Chris on Oct 20, 2014

    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?

    • FreedMike FreedMike on Oct 20, 2014

      I'm thinking of a self-directed mobile bordello. That'd be fascinating.

  • Jmo Jmo on Oct 20, 2014

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