Daimler & Bosch Will Test Self-Driving Taxi Within Months

Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler and Bosch, the world’s largest auto parts supplier, told a German car publication that the two companies are partnering on a self-driving taxi that would begin testing themselves on city streets in the next few months.”There will be test vehicles on the streets in the coming months,” Bosch chief executive Volkmar Denner told the publication.

Dennner didn’t elaborate as to what cities or under what conditions the vehicles will be tested, but the company does possess experience in this field, having conducted self-driving truck tests in Nevada in 2015.

“Apart from highly autonomous level 3 vehicles, we will also bring fully autonomous vehicles — level 4/5 — to the streets in the foreseeable future,” Wilko Stark, vice president Daimler and Mercedes-Benz Cars strategy, told Automobilwoche.

Level 4 vehicles are “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip” according to a US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report released in 2016.

It’s important to note, however, that Level 4 vehicle autonomous capabilities are limited to the “operational design domain (ODD)” of the vehicle — meaning it does not cover every driving scenario.

A Level 5 vehicle is one that can match a human driver in every driving scenario, including extreme environments like dirt roads.

Daimler’s Stark also noted the partnership with Bosch was running smoothly and the company was planning to offer mobility services with their own robotaxis as soon as possible, noting platforms for these services such as Mytaxi, Via and Moovel already exist.

“The big difference to other competitors is that we are conceptualizing our vehicle as a robotaxi right from the beginning and not as a technology-kit mounted on a production vehicle,” Stark explained. “We are not building a makeshift solution.”

Daimler, the world’s largest luxury automaker, will have to keep the pressure up if it wants to stay in competition with the likes of rivals like BMW, which has promised to deliver at Level 5 self-driving vehicle to market by 2021.

Elmar Frickenstein, the Bavarian company’s senior vice president for autonomous driving, was reported as saying during a panel discussion in Berlin in March 2017 that the company was in fact working on Level 3, 4 and 5 types of vehicles to be ready for 2021.

A year before the public announcement, BMW had teamed up with Intel and Mobileye, an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving specialist, to develop an open platform for the next generation of cars, from door locks to data centers.

In the US, Waymo ordered thousands of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to expand its ever-growing autonomous vehicle fleet, and are due to arrive later this year when the company expands its autonomous ride-sharing service.

Japan’s automakers are under even greater pressure, with the government pushing for a 2020 Summer Olympics deadline to wow an international crowd of sports fans with a fleet of autonomous vehicles shuttling athletes, organizers and VIPs around Tokyo.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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