Daimler, Bosch Bringing AVs to One California City

A pair of German companies, Daimler and Bosch, has created a new partnership that will bring self-driving Mercedes-Benz vehicles to an unnamed city in California.

The two companies plan to offer a shuttle service with automated vehicles on selected routes in this city. Daimler Mobility Services will provide and operating the fleet of shuttles, as well as creating ride-hailing and car-sharing services applications for residents.

In addition, Daimler and Bosch will provide a self-driving shuttle service on select routes in the San Francisco Bay area, which will serve as a test for future integration of fully-automated vehicles into larger transport networks.

Daimler is providing the vehicles and test facilities, while Bosch is responsible for components including sensors, actuators and control units.

The partners have also tapped graphics chipmaker Nvidia as the supplier of the artificial intelligence platform for the vehicles’ control unit network.

The Mercedes vehicles rely on a control unit network made up of several individual modules, which collates the data from all sensors with radar, video, Lidar and ultrasound technology evaluates them within milliseconds and plans the movements of the vehicle.

Nvidia claims more than 320 companies and organizations are already using its Drive platform, including Uber, Volkswagen and Chinese Internet and AI giant Baidu, which are all developingself-driving cars with the company’s technology.

The control unit network will also be used in the fleet vehicles that Daimler and Bosch will put on the roads of California in the second half of 2019.

Employees from both firms are currently working together in teams in the greater Stuttgart area in Germany, and around Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley. Together, they are jointly developing the concepts and algorithms for the fully-automated, driverless drive system.

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles approved testing and use of autonomous vehicles with no safety driver earlier this year, setting the stage for what could become the world’s largest AV testing ground.

Mercedes-Benz has approval to test automated vehicles in and around the Sunnyvale region since 2014.

The American public has grown increasingly skeptical of autonomous car technology, following a series of high-profile accidents involving Tesla and Waymo, the self-driving vehicle division of Google parent company Alphabet.

Michael Hafner, head of automated driving at Daimler, explained the purpose of the California tests was all part of the plan to more widely introduce a safe, dependable and mature system.

“Safety has the highest priority, and is the constant theme of all aspects and development stages on our way to the start of series production,” he wrote in a statement. “If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed.”

Earlier this week Daimler announced that after extensive closed-course testing the company now has permission from the Chinese government to begin road tests on real city streets in Beijing.

To qualify for the license, Mercedes vehicles were equipped with additional technical applications from Baidu’s open source Apollo autonomous driving platform, and the company undertook additional vehicle testing on closed tracks in Beijing and Hebei.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209.

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