Mercedes is the latest automaker to get 'self-driving car' license in California

Mercedes-has received a license from the state of California that allows testing of self-driving car prototypes on public roads. Mercedes joins fellow German automaker Audi as the first two companies to receive the license. 

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/File
Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche speaks next to the Mercedes S500 Intelligent Drive car, the first self-steered Mercedes, during a media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. California issued its first 29 permits this week to three companies to test self-driving cars on public roads, state officials said on Thursday. Google Inc got 25 permits and two permits each went to Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Audi,

Earlier this week we saw Audi become the first automaker to receive the new license from the state of California to allow testing of autonomous car prototypes on public roads, and now fellow German automaker Mercedes-Benz has announced that it's also received the license. California has allowed limited use of its roads for autonomous car testing in the past, and in 2012 it finally passed a bill that set out laws to allow the self-driving cars on its roads.

The laws call for proof of insurance or surety bonds for manufacturers testing automated driving research cars, and licenses for company-designated operators of those vehicles. The laws also call for surety bond coverage of at least $5 million for each vehicle being used for testing.

Moreover, Mercedes aims to ensure its autonomous car prototypes are safe to be used in normal traffic. The test vehicles are specially equipped to this end: the driver must recognize clearly when the car is in autonomous driving mode and must be able to override this mode at any time; in addition, the car must be capable of stopping autonomously at any time.

Mercedes has proven to be a leader in the field of autonomous cars, having offered vehicles with autonomous driving capability for close to a year. However, the new license will help the automaker further advance the technology by allowing testing in one of the world’s most important car markets. The aim is to develop a car that canhandle all driving situations on its own.

It’s also important that automakers test the self-driving systems in a variety of conditions, as the difference in road types between countries is vast. While motoring in Germany commonly takes place on narrow roads, the roads in the U.S. are frequently wider and may have more than six or even eight lanes. Traffic lights are installed on the opposite side of the road, there are numerous scenarios for merging, and then there are the ‘4-way’ stops, where the first to reach the junction is allowed to go first.

“The knowledge that Mercedes-Benz gains will help to achieve significant strides in the further technological development of autonomous driving," Mercedes R&D chief Thomas Weber said in a statement. “Through our new research activities we aim to promote the topic specifically in the USA, as the traffic system in the USA differs from the system in Germany in numerous aspects.”

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