SOURCE: Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America

Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America

September 13, 2016 13:07 ET

Mercedes-Benz and Udacity Offer Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree

Mercedes-Benz Partners With Udacity to Train More Self-Driving Car Engineers

SUNNYVALE, CA--(Marketwired - September 13, 2016) - Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA) today announced a partnership with Udacity, an online education provider, to offer a Nanodegree program for students to become engineers in self-driving car technology.

The MBRDNA team, based in Silicon Valley, works in all areas of autonomous driving, including sensor fusion, situation assessment, maneuver and trajectory planning as well as deep learning. The comprehensive knowledge of the MBRDNA team will be applied to the curriculum of the Udacity Nanodegree program. Applications will open on September 13th and be accepted through September 27th. The program is comprised of three different terms. Students must successfully complete all three terms to graduate. Each term is 12 weeks long, for a period of approximately 9 months. The Nanodegree program includes classes and projects in computer vision, robotics, sensor fusion, localization and deep learning. As part of students' capstone project, they will build autonomous software that will be applied to an actual vehicle.

"We have tremendous respect for Udacity and its endeavor to democratize education and make it available for more people," said Axel Gern, head of Autonomous Driving at MBRDNA. "At Mercedes-Benz, we are perpetually pushing boundaries of autonomous driving. By helping develop the curriculum for the Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree, we are investing not only in potential talent to contribute to our cutting-edge developments but in the future of autonomous driving."

"For the Self-Driving Car Nanodegree to be a success, we need the very best industry partners," said Sebastian Thrun, founder and president of Udacity. "Mercedes-Benz is pioneering some of the most audacious innovations in this field and their contribution to the program is invaluable."

Mercedes-Benz was the first automotive manufacturer to open a research and development center in Silicon Valley in 1995. In September 2014, MBRDNA became one of the first automotive manufacturers to be issued with an official license by the state of California for testing self-driving vehicles on public roads. The team in Sunnyvale deals with different traffic conditions and infrastructure parameters on inner-city American roads; the findings are then incorporated into the worldwide development work of Mercedes-Benz.

With the Bertha Benz Drive conducted in Germany in fall 2013, Mercedes-Benz became the first car manufacturer to demonstrate the feasibility of autonomous driving on both interurban and urban routes. Developed on the basis of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle autonomously drove the historic route between Mannheim and Pforzheim. She proved that self-driving cars are no longer science fiction. Equipped with close-to-production technology and abundant computing power, she provided the development engineers at Mercedes-Benz with valuable findings. With the new E-Class with its innovative features such as DRIVE PILOT and Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function and pedestrian detection another milestone was achieved. The intelligence on board the new E-Class represents a major step in the direction of autonomous driving.

A number of obstacles remain to be overcome on the way to autonomous driving for everyone. The interconnection of the sensors requires further optimization, and the sensors themselves have potential for improvement. The experts have to deal with extreme weather conditions, different driving behaviour in different cultures and reliable traffic light recognition. With the help of deep learning methods, significant improvements have been made in the way a vehicle is able to classify its environment. The ultimate aim for Mercedes-Benz vehicles is to become so smart that they will have their own solutions to handle all complex traffic situations. They will learn to predict people's intentions, by analyzing their behaviour, movements, gestures and posture.

Autonomous driving is a holistic approach within the Daimler family. Daimler Trucks underlines its leadership role in autonomous driving. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck with Highway Pilot system is the world's first autonomous truck to be granted a license for road use in the state of Nevada. Also, the world's biggest bus manufacturer, Daimler Buses, is systematically extending its technological leadership. The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot has driven autonomously for the first time on a route of approximately 20 kilometers in Amsterdam.

The mobility of the future will bring a tightly woven network that combines various mobility services -- from carsharing in urban cores all the way to dynamic ridesharing powered by autonomous vehicles. Daimler is the only automotive OEM in the world that manufactures vehicles, has leading-edge autonomous drive technology expertise, and, with car2go, operates one-way carsharing at scale. The next step is that carsharing would generally become even more customer-friendly. Customers would not have to find their vehicle, but it would automatically come to them.

The growth, demand and importance of the autonomous vehicle market are driving expansion of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America. Later in September, a new office will be opened in Sunnyvale and be home to a growing team of self-driving car engineers to be the foundation for bringing autonomous driving technologies forward to everyday reality.

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