Mercedes-Benz Had Autonomous Cars Back in 1985, Before It Was Cool

Did the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion concept got you all excited about where the car industry might be going in the future? Well, before looking ahead, we must know what the past had to offer, right?
Autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class 1 photo
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
30 years ago, Mercedes-Benz said yes to a challenge that back then, looked like it came from Jules Verne’s books: autonomous driving. This is how Daimler-Benz and a bunch of European manufacturers got together and fired-up the EUREKA-PROMETHEUS research project (‘PROMETHEUS’ stood for Project for European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety).

Is spanned over eight years and its precious fruit was Mercedes-Benz’s VITA-vehicle, a car which used miniature video cameras behind the front and rear windscreens tasked to capture traffic around the vehicle. According on the gathered and interpreted data, the car was able to take decisions on when to break, accelerate and steer in order to adapt to traffic conditions.

Although the concept didn’t spawn a self-driving car right away - in fact, that took around 10 years to happen with an S-Class test prototype - much of the safety systems found today in Mercedes’ models were created based on that initial research. So next time you use lane-change and parking assistance systems on your Benz, you’ll know where they came from.

Coming back to the autonomous S-Class of the '90s, it is worth mentioning that the car was on hand is a W140 S-Class packed with serious software and hardware - in other words, a supercomputer - that allowed the vehicle to drive itself from Munich to Copenhagen in 1995, putting around 1,678 km (1,043 miles) under its belt.

The car also managed to hit 185 km/h (115 mph) on the Autobahn, where it even overpassed other cars without human interfering in the process. That surely does sound impressive even in today’s context.
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