6 min read

Day 3: History

Slow Start

Jet lag really knocked me out this morning. Starting my day at 11:00AM, I sadly missed the Australian Grand Prix. Congratulations to Max, and well done Lewis on P2. I made myself a salami-cheese sandwich, had a bowl of Müsli, and enjoyed a double espresso at the hotel lobby before jumping into the car. I’m glad I went shopping last night.

Today, my first goal was to map out my morning commute to and from the office where I’ll be working. Loading the address into Google Maps, I was expecting at least a 15 minute drive. Turns out, it’s pretty much just down the road. I don’t think I’ll walk, but it’s about a 6 minute drive, almost identical to my commute back in Sunnyvale. It would definitely make for an enjoyable bike ride. I’d estimate it would take about 25-30 minutes.

Action Item: Find a bicycle.

Practice Makes Perfect

As I pulled in front of the office building, I found my first opportunity to practice parking in Germany. A few years ago, I was walking down the sidewalk. Out of nowhere a car came up right behind me, with both passenger-side wheels rolling along the curb until the car came to a halt and the driver exited. I was in shock from how confidently, and almost brashly, this guy parked with half his car on the sidewalk. Turns out, this is completely legal.

Fast forward a few years to today, and now I have my chance to try this out myself. I lined up the car, turned the wheel to the right, until I had about half my car on top of the low curb / sidewalk. I turned off the ignition, got out of the car, and felt proud. There was no one around, so this was definitely a moment for me and me alone.

It's legal.

As I got back into the car, I started pondering how an AV would execute this parking maneuver.  Given the heavy reliance on map information by most leading AV companies and technologies, this can certainly be challenging if map information is not accurate/up-to-date or if the behavior planning module relies too much on it. Feasible solutions would have to incorporate map information to park in legally marked spots, but utilize a low-level perception-fusion system to estimate curb height, drivable space and obstructions. Surround-view cameras would be a requirement, with ultrasonic for short-range obstruction detection (like rails, poles, humans, etc.). While I think Lidar is amazing technology, I’m not sure if it’s needed or helpful for this use-case as a production feature, other than for ground-truth generation. There’s also the problem of parking within the allowed distance between the driver-side and where the actual curb starts. I’m sure true parking experts would probably have differing opinions on this — I’m just casually intuiting before I go to bed. I’m curious if any OEM can currently handle a parking situation like this…🧐

A City of Hills

As I wrapped up my office commute exploration and parking practice, I jumped onto the highway and headed to one my favorite places in Stuttgart - the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The weather was cloudy, but not raining, so visibility was generally much better than yesterday. I could see surrounding structures and pay more attention to the geography and layout of Stuttgart and its “suburban” areas.

One thing I quickly noticed is that Stuttgart is a city of undulating hills. Major portions of the city and its surrounding regions are located within small valleys. Some routes can take you up and over, with beautiful views of Stuttgart. However, the vast majority will take through an expansive tunnel system that cuts right through. It was the first time I’ve ever been at a 4-way intersection with traffic light regulation under a set of hills in a tunnel.

Finally, some sunlight.

When I move to a new accommodation near Stuttgart at the end of the month, I’m really looking forward to experiencing this commute more frequently.

A Piece of the Past

I’ve visited the Mercedes-Benz Museum multiple times at this point. Like any museum, no matter how many times you visit, there’s always something new to discover. But unlike any other museum, the Mercedes-Benz offers an incredibly rich view into the history of the oldest automaker in the world and the massive transformation in world mobility and industrialization that followed the release of the first automobile.

The museum is designed like a helix, the physical building coiling around the history of the company traveling from top to bottom, from company conception to the modern age.

While I took many, the photos below are just a glimpse of the history enshrined within the museum. They definitely do not give it justice. If you’re ever in Stuttgart, I highly recommend you visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum when you get a chance. The crowd favorite of the museum was definitely the F1 Driving Simulator. It was recently replaced with a new exhibit, Moving in Stereo, which is around until September 17, 2023. It’s definitely worth seeing this eclectic mix of modern art sculptures and experiments in person.

By far, my favorite part of the museum is the exhibit on Sicherheitsforschung (translation: Safety Research). For a brand that has a history of building beautiful machines, it’s amazing to see the history of safety innovations Mercedes-Benz has pioneered since its conception. As the company turns to ensuring the development of highly automated vehicles, it is invigorating to trace today’s efforts to ensure the safety of highly automated vehicles and features back to the company’s history.

I won’t say anymore. Enjoy the pictures. Go the museum! 😄

Frieden und Liebe ❤️ (translation: peace and love)