The road map: Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside No. 11/2020

Jul 17, 2020
  • Rolled up, folded, bound or on the display screen: Maps created specifically for driving
  • In future, the vehicle will support the creation of continuously updated digital maps
  • “33 Extras”: Exhibits of motoring culture at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Stuttgart. One hundred and sixty vehicles and a total of 1500 exhibits are presented in the varied permanent exhibition of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The “33 Extras” are a particular highlight: they can bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life using details that are often surprising. The Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside newsletter series draws attention to the “33 Extras” and focuses on their background stories. Today’s edition is all about the road map.

11/33: The road map

1 – New horizons: The success of the car has transformed the way people view the world. Indeed, the invention from Carl Benz provides an individual mobility over great distances which is entirely unprecedented. His wife, Bertha Benz, completed the very first long distance journey from Mannheim to Pforzheim in August 1888. Complete freedom, however, cannot be achieved without orientation. This gave rise to road maps – geographical charts which are tailored specifically to the requirements of the motorist.

2 – Delineated knowledge: Geographical charts portray a section of the world and provide solutions to specific queries: which are the most relevant traffic routes in the region? Which points along the route are significant? And how does one establish a correlation between the mapped representation and the actual environs?

3 – Street map mass medium: Road maps were first introduced at the beginning of the 20th century. As well as being distributed by publishing houses, they were also given out by vehicle manufacturers, producers of fuel and tyres, and automobile clubs. With such a fast-paced circulation, road maps soon developed into a mass medium.

4 – Car travel guide: Supplementing the street maps, special car travel guides are also available for touristic trips. As far back as 1908, a handbook from the British Automobile Association (AA) provided information pertaining to car journeys across continental Europe. Mercedes-Benz published the “Sternfahrten” (Rallies) series throughout the 1950s and 1960s. This car travel guide carries the motto “Pleasant travels at your convenience”.

5 – Space-saving: Information content and manageability – precisely the attributes which should be harmonised in a geographical map. If only it were so simple. Large-sized sheets of a map containing a multitude of details are extremely informative. They can, however, be awkward to handle, especially in windy weather. Mariners at the back end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times often used so-called portolan maps made from durable parchment precisely for this purpose, as they could be easily rolled up to save on space. The “33 Extras” exhibit at the Mercedes-Benz Museum also applies the principle of a “rolled map” (“Rollkarte” in German), and even reflects this in the name: here is a “Rollka” street map from the first half of the 20th century. It is pulled out to the desired section and clamped in place. It can then be rolled back up again at the press of a button.

6 – Brilliantly simple: At one time, printed street maps were drawn up by cartographers. In this process they applied the principle of generalisation, whereby the available information is evaluated differently in accordance with the intended purpose of the map to ensure optimum usability. Thus, for road maps: the network of roads is depicted in detail, with colour coding for clarity, and important elements such as numbers of the highways or of access and exit lanes are also provided. Maps for hikers feature different criteria.

7 – Travelling with your finger: Those who use printed road maps inevitably always embark on an imaginary journey. This is because the map depicts much more than a simple route from A to B. In fact, your eyes are opened up to geographic discoveries and interesting aspects of the environment. These greater contexts can be portrayed much more easily than on a small display screen.

8 – Folding or thumbing through, swiping or speaking: There are two variants of standard map material with different scales accepted by drivers – the folded map and the atlas. Whether planning a tour, checking intermittently as you go, or of course turn-by-turn navigation: nowadays, these tasks are dealt with by navigation systems and smartphones. This is the biggest difference other than operation via swiping and voice control. The digital technology knows precisely where the vehicle is situated, and adapts the display continuously in accordance with the travel direction.

9 – Voiced navigation: A vocal medium has always provided orientation during journeys. The road map forms the basis for the front seat passenger’s role as navigator. This may occasion emotionally-fuelled debate over the interpretation of the cartographic information. The computerised voice of the navigation system is entirely unperturbed in this regard. It offers a convenient and intuitive way to use digital map data. However, precise specifications are also necessary here if unpleasant surprises are to be avoided.

10 – Effective information: Likewise, it was the voice of co-driver Denis Jenkinson that guided racing driver Stirling Moss to his legendary victory in the Mille Miglia in May 1955. Jenkinson’s method of navigation was based on the “prayer book”, a new kind of track data at that time, which they had devised during training. Clever: this itinerary was conceived as a paper roll in a special housing which was continuously rotated. Moreover, it is also included as one of the “33 Extras”.

11 – By vehicles for vehicles: Today, vehicles themselves are instrumental in creating road maps. Daimler AG is a leading participant with HERE, a company specialising in digital map data, and has been in charge of the HD Live Map project since 2018. The concept: state-of-the-art vehicles with their high-performance sensors and networking collect actual road data and add the cartographic information of the system in real time, thus making it available to other road users. A map can not be any more current. Digital map data is tremendously important for increasingly efficient assistance systems and the future of autonomous travel.

Route planning with the road map on the bonnet of the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (W 121), shown on the carriage of a motorail train in Lötschberg (Switzerland). Photograph from 1955.
Road maps from the 1920s. In front, the “Mercedes-Benz General Map of Highways in Germany” with a scale of 1:100,000, on the left, “Ravenstein’s Traffic, Bicycle and Road Vehicle Map of Württemberg and Hohenzollern” with an advertisement for Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft.
Digital street map of the COMAND operating and display system of a Mercedes-Benz C-Class from the 203 series (in production from 2000 to 2007).
Digital street map of the COMAND operating and display system of a Mercedes-Benz C-Class from the 203 series (in production from 2000 to 2007.
“Rollka” “North Germany” road map, one of “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz museum (left).
Digital and analogue road maps: The map app for a modern smartphone in the foreground, and in the background the “Rollka” “North Germany” road map. It is one of the “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Digital and analogue road maps: The map app for a modern smartphone in the foreground, and in the background the “Rollka” “North Germany” road map. It is one of the “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
The new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system was unveiled by the brand at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES) in January 2018. Included in its most prominent features were the voice control and a high-resolution widescreen cockpit. The navigation display uses augmented-reality technology.