Mercedes says it’s been touting autonomous driving for the past three decades image

The automotive industry has been swept away by the promise of self-driving capabilities for a few years now – but in reality the process of gradually testing and accepting autonomous vehicles started many, many years ago.

Like Mercedes’ own project has now decided to celebrate 30 years. Can you believe that? Their Prometheus project that now is three decades old actually laid the foundation of today’s modern self-driving car technology in Mercedes cars. Daimler initiated the project, christened Prometheus, as it translated into “Program for a European traffic of highest efficiency and unprecedented safety.” Yes, they were that quirky – and if they told anyone what they were doing back then people would have thought them mad…

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There were other European carmakers, as well as electronics and components suppliers, universities and research institutes, that actually took part in the project. The idea was to research and study a way of making cars more efficient and safer on the roads as traffic increased. The culmination was an S Class sedan packing a system dubbed VITA – “Vision Information Technology Application”. It was capable of operating the car’s steering, throttle, and brakes, and in 1994, the VITA S Class went for 620 miles (1000 kilometers) at speeds up to 80 miles-per-hour (130 kilometers-per-hour) on a highway, changing lanes and overtaking. Earlier versions actually needed so much computer power the latter were using a van… but the aftermath was the Distronic adaptive cruise control and Pre-Safe automatic emergency braking systems that Mercedes put into production about ten years ago.