The EUREKA Prometheus Project ("PROgraMme for a European Traffic of Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety,1987-1995) was the largest R&D project ever in the field of driverless cars. In today's money it received more than 1 billion dollars of funding from the European Commission, and defined the state of the art of autonomous vehicles. Numerous universities and car manufacturers participated in this Pan-European project.
Prometheus profited from the participation of Ernst Dickmanns, the 1980s pioneer of driverless cars, and his team at Bundeswehr Universität München, collaborating with Daimler-Benz. A first culmination point was achieved in 1994, when their twin robot vehicles VaMP and VITA-2 drove more than one thousand kilometers on a Paris multi-lane highway in standard heavy traffic at speeds up to 130 km/h. They demonstrated autonomous driving in free lanes, convoy driving, automatic tracking of other vehicles, and lane changes left and right with autonomous passing of other cars.
The next culmination point was achieved in 1995, when Dickmanns´ re-engineered autonomous S-Class Mercedes-Benz took a 1000 mile trip from Munich in Bavaria to Copenhagen in Denmark and back, using saccadic computer vision and transputers to react in real time. The robot achieved speeds exceeding 175 km/h on the German Autobahn, with a mean time between human interventions of 9km. In traffic it executed manoeuvres to pass other cars. Despite being a research system without emphasis on long distance reliability, it drove up to 158 km without any human intervention.
The achievements of Prometheus were the basis for most subsequent work on driverless cars.
- Ernst Dickmanns and team of Bundeswehr Universität München
- Numerous others (to be completed)