2014 Mercedes-Benz S550, your self-driving luxury suite awaits: Motoramic Drives
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 can drive itself.
This is not hyperbole, but an indubitable fact. Buy the new flagship sedan for an as-yet undisclosed price (we can’t imagine it returning many Sacagawea coins from a $100,000 bearer bond), tick the order boxes for the $4,500 Premium 1 Package and the $2,800 Driver Assistance Package, twist the key in the starter and slide the memory stick-sized column shifter into D, and sit back and relax. The car’s suite of stereoscopic cameras, radar sensors and ultrasonic gewgaws create what Mercedes — in a Snowden-level defection from Earth-bound physics — calls “6-D Vision.” This double-down dimensionality apparently endows the vehicle’s robot brain with an omnipotence once ascribed solely to God.
Bow deep, luxury shopper. The automotive world has a new deity.
All of these electronic systems create an eerie and unfamiliar dynamic, one in which the distinctions between being in the pilot’s seat and being a passenger disappear. Given the status afforded the S550’s passengers — who are all mollycoddled with heated, ventilated, reclining, massaging, perforated, diamond-stitched, perfume-shpritzed (!), flatscreen-equipped, remote-controlled, Internet-enabled, mother-hugging, veal-soft leather seats, at least one of which (the right rear) can be made to prostrate toward a slumber-inducing horizontality — this is not meant as an insult. Still, in our years of test-driving vehicles, we have never before been confronted with the consistent desire, or ability, to remove ourselves from driving and turn around to speak to our passenger, who was splayed out in the aforementioned Diamond Class position like a resplendent Roman atop his villa’s stibadium.
There are about 16,000 actions, previously left to the hands and feet and eyes of the driver, which the S550 can now perform with complete autonomy. These include starting, stopping, steering, braking, remaining in a lane, avoiding a head-on collision, avoiding a cross-traffic collision, fending off a rear-end collision, spotting street signs, reading street signs, spotting wildlife, parallel parking, right-angle parking, maintaining a safe following speed, spotting pedestrians, avoiding killing pedestrians and flashing the high beams at pedestrians spotted on the side of the roadway at night.