For the owner of the Mercedes brand, the US is an important market, and the conditions for autonomous driving are very different from Europe. While motoring in Europe - and Daimler's home country Germany is no exception, despite its dense Autobahn network - commonly takes place on narrow roads whereas the roads in the USA are typically wider and may have more than six or even eight lanes. There are numerous differences in traffic regulations and practical handling between Europe and the US which make it necessary to test research vehicles for automated driving in the United States, said Axel Gern who oversees Daimler's autonomous driving research activities in North America. A desirable side-effect is certainly the public perception of Daimler participating in the race towards automated driving, a perception currently dominated by a non-automotive player, Google.
Daimler is not the only automotive OEM currently highlighting its capabilities of automated driving. Following General Motor's recent announcement to make automated driving features in series production available within two years, Japanese carmakers Honda and Toyota have introduced similar features to the public. During the ITS World Congress in Detroit, Honda showcased functions like automated lane changing and automated entering and leaving multi-lane highways. In addition, Honda demoed a system enabling vehicle-to-pedestrian communication between vehicle and a compatible smartphone carried by the pedestrian or cyclist. This system warns drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists in the case of a collision hazard.
In the meantime, Toyota demonstrated an advanced version of its Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA) driver assistance system. The system utilises a 77GHz radar and a lane control system that processes the images from a front camera to automatically control the steering angle. The two systems control speed and direction, enabling automated driving at speeds up to 113 km/h (70 mph).