Daimler is secretively preparing to launch a self-driving taxi service in an undisclosed city in California next year. As Google, Uber, and Tesla pioneered the self-driving car sector, the maker of Mercedes-Benz developed its own technology in silence.
Now, it hopes to launch its program having learned from the mistakes of its competitors.
The pilot program will offer autonomous car rides (with human safety drivers) in luxury vehicles. The “automated shuttle” service will offer free rides for passengers, who will interact with the system via a mobile app.
Although Daimler hasn’t shared where exactly the experience will take place, or how many vehicles will make up the fleet, it did make public that it is partnering with Bosch to develop the necessary technology.
The head of the company’s autonomous driving department, Uwe Keller, has commented, “Hardly any company can meet this challenge alone.” The choice of Bosch is not casual. With a solid track record developing state-of-the-art safety systems for luxury cars, the prestigious automotive supplier appears to be well-equipped to minimize risks for the autonomous shuttle program.
One of the key aspects of self-driving cars, and where we have seen some of the most tragic failures, has to do with sensors. Bosch and Daimler have announced that they are developing the autonomous Mercedes’ sensors together.
What remains to be seen is whether the companies will succeed in implementing safe systems that can process all the data obtained from radars, sensors, and cameras with a reasonable energy expenditure.
Bosch car cameras record detailed visual data that can take up one terabyte of space for a mere 6-mile ride. Equipping cars with the right tech will thus require a highly efficient hardware/software combination.
To meet these challenges, Daimler has also announced that it has secured a partnership with Nvidia, an AI company that has achieved some of the best results for high-volume data processing at minimal power consumption.
Naturally, with everything that has happened with Tesla car batteries catching fire, excessive heat is also a concern for Daimler, and the company plans to build efficient cooling systems to prevent the data processors from getting too hot.
With a proprietary taxi service app operating in numerous European countries, and a fleet management system already in place, Daimler appears to be prepared to meet the challenges of the autonomous shuttle sector.
Because they have been rather quiet so far, nobody is talking about fatal accidents in connection with self-driving vehicles built by Daimler. And thanks to their track record in the automotive industry, the market is viewing the proposed pilot program with optimism.
Hopefully, this reputable automaker will put safety before profits when designing their brand new line of autonomous taxis.
John Uustal is a Ft. Lauderdale trial lawyer with a national law practice focused on serious injuries resulting from dangerous and poorly designed products. His upcoming book Corporate Serial Killers focuses on companies that choose profits over safety.