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Mercedes-Benz: One Step Closer To A Driverless Future

Signaling a driverless future with its current crop of innovative motoring technologies.

In an opening statement at the Mercedes-Benz Driving Event 2016, spokespeople for the German car manufacturer promised that autonomous Mercedes cars are coming sooner than we thought possible. Car companies have been throwing the idea of driverless cars for a while now, but is a driverless car a pipe dream or something just beyond the horizon?

Mercedes-Benz assures us this future is very much in sight. It is already that much closer with the intelligent driving assistance and cutting edge safety mechanisms present in the new E Class executive saloon. They boast the most number of lines of codes for each semi-autonomous feature — the E Class is now bridging the gap to full autonomy.

To show us how close the car manufacturer is to autonomous driving, it demonstrated what its newest models could do by putting them through a series of tests.

The CLAs, Shooting Brakes, SLCs, E Class sedans, C Class coupes, GLCs and of course, the AMGs, stood shoulder to shoulder. Under the expert eyes of professional driving instructors from Australia, the next two hours at the driving event were devoted to three specially-designed drives to exhibit what Mercedes automobiles are capable of.

The first of them was a slalom course earmarked by cones and my group of drivers had to take the seven different models through their paces to feel how each of them would respond when performing evasive manoeuvres or just weaving through everyday traffic.

From a test of acceleration and agility to driving aid technology, the next station saw a lone grey C Class sitting in the middle of a large, minimally demarcated space. Naked to the eye, the car wheels were fitted with a thin plastic film to mimic conditions of a heavily snowed in road. The wetness from a persistent drizzle piled on the pressure — evident by the looks of trepidation being exchanged. Everyone lost control of the C Class as it spun and skidded around the figure-of-eight course. We were saved only by the Electronic Stability Control (ESP) feature, which did its job by braking individual wheels so we would not end up spiraling off into the surrounding forest.

The final station was as straightforward as speeding down a straight course and then jamming the brakes as hard as possible to stop just short of the cones — even if it meant breaking the brake pedal.

Judging by how drivers performed during the trials, Mercedes Benz proved that the one thing holding the car back was the thing seated between the steering wheel and the seat.

With the amount of technological assist humans are dependent on, I could not help but wonder: could this be a one last hurrah before we hand over the reins to robotics? Christmas 2016 might have been the last time Mercedes Benz owners had to drive from family dinners to other social festivities in a S Class. When the Christmas rolls around this year, this same group of people could very well be taking a back seat for good.

Visit Mercedes-Benz Singapore for more information about Mercedes Benz Driving Events.