The Man Who Invented the Self-Driving Car (In 1986) →

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Janosch Delcker, writing for Politico:

The other drivers wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual as the two sleek limousines with German license plates joined the traffic on France’s Autoroute 1.

But what they were witnessing — on that sunny, fall day in 1994 — was something many of them would have dismissed as just plain crazy.

It had taken a few phone calls from the German car lobby to get the French authorities to give the go-ahead. But here they were: two gray Mercedes 500 SELs, accelerating up to 130 kilometers per hour, changing lanes and reacting to other cars — autonomously, with an onboard computer system controlling the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brakes.

Decades before Google, Tesla and Uber got into the self-driving car business, a team of German engineers led by a scientist named Ernst Dickmanns had developed a car that could navigate French commuter traffic on its own.

I did not know this! Just the lack of computational power in those days was a major hurdle but creativity (cutting corners?) still made it possible. I wonder what would have happened if Daimler had continued to invest in that technology. I assume we would already have truly self-driving cars on sale today.

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