Mercedes-Benz will test self-driving cars in a weapons depot

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When most of us think about California, all they imagine is a lot of sun, lovely weather and movie stars. However, Mercedes-Benz sees a lot of potential for testing its self-driving vehicles. In a decommissioned weapons depot.

Mercedes-Benz selected a rather unusual location which will serve as testing grounds for their future autonomous cars: California’s Concord Naval Weapons Station. As testing inside busy cities is out of the question, the bizarre location and its over 30 kilometres of paved roads are a perfect alternative.

The site provides gridded roads, street signs and buildings – just as a normal city – which is a good thing, since Mercedes’ autonomous cars are expected to deal real-life urban challenges.

Althought Mercedes-Benz demonstrated on European public roads with a S-Class prototype that a self-driving car is a feasible project, using the isolated facility is also a safe solution, since pedestrians and traffic are also out of the question.

“We can use the test site in Concord, California, to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations. Taken in conjuction with the results of our test drives on public roads, these tests will help us with the ongoing development of our autonomous cars,” explained Dr. Axel Gern, Head of Autonomous Driving Research for Mercedes-Benz in North America.

The Concord naval base functioned as a storage facility for ammunition used for the Pacific Theater during World War II and has been out of service since 2005.