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  History 1

'Autonomous driving' also has a history, sometimes quite a curious one. In his book 'I Built Cars', August Horch gives a vivid account of his driving experiences with oncoming carriages before 1900. In one case, a whole wagon load of pottery ended up in the field off the road because the horses once again shied away. They were not yet used to automobiles.

However, neither do the coachmen. In another case, someone with a hackney was driving in the middle of the street and had to be persuaded to let the automobile pass by shooting with a pistol into the air. He was probably just asleep and his horses kept an even distance from the edges. Such naps were quite common and can rightly be counted among the first attempts at autonomous driving.

The driverless 'ghost car'

The actual research with the aim of replacing the driver may have begun in Germany in 1968, when Continental introduced the first electronically controlled automobile. A Mercedes /8 did its laps on their test track without a driver. However, the tire manufacturer's stated goal at the time was to make tests objective. That's why the car drove along a guide wire in the road. However, at that time there were already road-legal, semi-autonomous cars in Germany and the USA.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has in its name 'Defence' and is an agency of the relevant ministry. Among many other projects - including the beginnings of the Internet as ARPA - it initiated the Autonomous Land Vehicles. It is not known whether this should lead to the development of a type of driving drone. The forerunners were smaller laboratory vehicles that had the necessary sensors on board, but were dependent on the power of external computers.

In Germany the project was called somewhat bulky 'Test vehicle for autonomous mobility and computer vision'. Here again there was military involvement, in this case the Bundeswehr University in Munich. This resulted in a collaboration with Mercedes, during which the knowledge gained was transferred to three S-Classes (pictured above). They then also had the now smaller computers on board and are therefore considered the first autonomously driving cars.

Program for a European Traffic with highest Efficiency and unprecedented Safety (1987 - 1995)

In 1993, as part of Daimler-Benz and Bosch's Prometheus project, a Bremen van with an emergency engineer in the driver's seat drove across empty streets and highways without his hands on the wheel. However, at right- angled junctions it was so slow that it would disrupt normal traffic. Although it wasn't networked, it had a digital map in memory.

Otherwise, it also evaluated what his camera 'saw'. It followed lanes, recognized junctions, was able to change lanes and reached a speed of 90 km/h. Based on the map and the given destination, it knew exactly when it had to take the next exit. It even managed the entrance and second exit at the roundabout. However, the vehicles with right of way had to be stopped by the police beforehand.

In October 1994, two vehicles demonstrated their capabilities in normal traffic on a three-lane highway near Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris). Speeds of up to 130 km/h were possible and, in addition to driving in a convoy, even changing lanes and overtaking were possible. In total, over 1,000 km were covered with one driver for safety reasons. So when we talk about the many vehicles with sensors in Silicon Valley today, it's all been there before.

Of course, these journeys were limited to the motorway and sometimes intervention had to be made, for example at certain motorway construction sites and via the programmed confirmation for overtaking. Mind you, all of this without GPS and any form of networking.

Also worth mentioning is the 'Autonomous Driving - Villa Ladenburg' 2012 - 2014 project, which is clearly linked to Daimler-Benz just by the choice of location. The work began with a collection of more than 200 questions on the topic, which were then dealt with by different authors in the areas of law, security, traffic, mobility, people and machines, individual and social acceptance and the social framework. The almost hundred-page script could represent a kind of guide for the future development of autonomous mobility.

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