The Mercedes S-Class will 'drive itself' within the lifetime of the latest-generation car that's just been launched, according to a senior company source.
This all-new S-Class already has some semi-autonomous ability; along with adaptive distance cruise control, it also offers Stop&Go Pilot, which brakes and accelerates automatically, to and from rest, in heavy traffic, using either road markings or the traffic in front as its guide.
However, Mercedes R&D boss Thomas Weber has told What Car? that the S-Class's systems which are based on a mix of radar and a stereo camera mounted at the top of the windscreen could do more, if legal obstacles could be overcome.
He said: 'We have to accept that there are rules in place, but my argument is that with the new S-Class, a new period of time has started in this area of technology. We are starting with the Stop&Go Pilot, which is focused on making things easier when driving is at its least fun in heavy traffic.
'We know we can go far above this, though. We have opened the door here to autonomous vehicles; the sensors and the technology are now on board. We will move some of these limits.'
When asked if a fully autonomous S-Class would need to wait until the next-generation car in eight years' time, Weber said, 'No, it can happen earlier than then. We already have cars in our test labs that can do these things.'