Currently under development, the S500 Intelligent Drive is an autonomous research vehicle that hints at the future of driving.

Mercedes has introduced their new S500 Intelligent Drive prototype.

Currently under development, the model is an autonomous research vehicle that has a variety of sensors including a stereo camera, a color camera (to monitor traffic lights) and environmental camera that picks up pre-mapped reference points to help determine the car's location. The model also has four short-range radar systems and three long-range radar systems.

The car uses the data from the various sensors and the global positioning system to determine its location, the location of obstacles and the available free area for driving. Once everything is clear and the car has the right-of-way, it drives itself to the predetermined destination.

While Mercedes has been relatively quiet about their autonomous driving plans, the company began testing prototypes on the Bertha Benz route in early 2012. Over the course of the system's development, specially trained drivers were required to intervene to avoid potential hazards. Mercedes made a record of these events and modified the system to ensure the car was better equipped to handle them autonomously in the future. However, no system is perfect so it has been designed to hand control back to the driver in the event something goes wrong.

The model recently retraced the world's very first long-distance drive that was made by Carl Benz's wife, Bertha, in 1888. The jaunt between Mannheim to Pforzheim is only about 100 km (62 mile) but the prototype had to deal with heavy traffic, roundabouts, pedestrians, cyclists and trams.

According to Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche, "This S-Class spells out where we're headed with Intelligent Drive and what tremendous potential there is in currently available technology." He added, "Autonomous vehicles are an important step on the way to accident-free driving" because "they will bring greater comfort and safety for all road users."

Check out the press release for additional information

Gallery: Mercedes shows off their autonomous S500 Intelligent Drive prototype [video]