Autonomous cars or self-driving cars have become quite a rage in the global automotive industry with the likes of Tesla, Google constantly working on improving the technology. But what sounds like a very 21st-century phenomenon actually finds its roots in the conception of the car itself. From 'phantom auto' in the 1920s to General Motors Firebird prototypes with 'no-hold steering' in 1950s, the idea of removing the human element from a vehicle's operation has pretty much been on the list of agendas for car manufacturers.
After decades of experimentation, we've come to a stage where self-driving cars are actually being tested on public roads and the fact that Tesla offers various levels of autonomy in its cars currently on sale. But while all these tests are taking centre stage now, Bosch was doing it back in 1993.
The retro video shows a Mercedes-Benz 410 van being tested in a controlled stretch of road with the driver casually reading a book. The van was equipped with electronic control of steering, throttle, brakes, and transmission, in an attempt to showcase its self-navigation technologies.
The van running on closed roads in Hildesheim, Germany, is doing speeds of about 88 km/h. “With a target given, this car could find the best route to it, including intra-urban traffic... Video sensors detected the road situation, and the real-time information was processed by an onboard computer in order to take a decision about speed or direction,” Bosch describes its project's goals in the video.
In related news, Daimler AG and Bosch announced that the two would jointly deploy self-driving taxis in California's Silicon Valley in 2019 as part of their project around test of autonomous cars for city driving.
Daimler's passenger car brand Mercedes-Benz and Bosch joined forces on the development of self-driving cars in April 2017. However, this video from 1993 shows the two were working together long ago.