Daimler starts pilot testing of self-driving Mercedes S-class taxis
The company has started robotaxi tests in California to gather user feedback, sources familiar with the matter told Automotive News Europe.
“We have not put the project on ice. We are looking at where we can improve efficiency and gain synergies so we don’t unnecessarily duplicate or triplicate our development work,” said one of the sources. “This pilot program is about capturing the user experience.”
Daimler has already been testing Level 4 cars on public roads in Stuttgart, Germany. The California tests are the first time that occupants who are not employed by the two companies ride in the vehicles.
The sources gave no details of the location nor extent of the tests.
Daimler and Robert Bosch said in November 2018 that San Jose, California’s third-biggest city, would be the pilot city for trials of a highly automated driving ride-hailing service, targeted to begin during the second half of this year.
With its population expected to grow 40 percent in the next two decades, San Jose wants to prepare itself for a future in which autonomous cars hit the streets, the companies said.
Daimler and Bosch are looking to expand beyond their pilot program in San Jose, California, Sajjad Khan, the management board member for future technologies including driverless cars at Mercedes, told Automotive News Europe last month.
Even though it will continue with self-driving taxis, Daimler believes there is a greater chance of making money more quickly with autonomous driving applications for heavy trucks hauling goods than with passenger cars taxiing people.
The company will shift spending on robotaxi fleets to autonomous cars for private use in less complex highway traffic rather than in a chaotic urban environment.
A full-scale deployment of the robotaxi business model would tie up a lot of capital with some uncertainties around the earnings potential, Kallenius said.
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