Weekly Brief: Daimler sets sights on Silicon Valley’s first robotaxi service

The service will enter test mode in the second half of 2019. Andrew Tolve reports.

Daimler and Bosch want to beat Waymo in its own backyard. The carmaker and Tier-1 supplier announced last week that they plan to deploy a Level 4 and 5 robotaxi service in Silicon Valley in 2019, in a yet-to-be-named metropolis just up the road from Google/Waymo headquarters. One would assume that to be San Jose but we’ll soon find out. In the meantime, we do know that the fleet will consist of specially manufactured Daimler vehicles fittedwith Bosch sensors and control units and an artificial intelligence platform called DRIVE Pegasus by Nvidia.

Daimler, Bosch and Nvidia are spotting Waymo a healthy head start. The first fully operational Waymo service is set to go live this year in Phoenix and Waymo has up to 60,000 more vehicles on the way from Fiat Chrysler to build out its fleet around the US. Daimler says it’s not worried as much about speed as it is safety for the time being. “The decisive factor is to introduce a safe, dependable and mature system,” says Dr Michael Hafner, head of automated driving at Daimler. “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. If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed.”

In other news, Toyota launched a new car-sharing service called Hui in Hawaii. The monthly membership program costs $14.95 per month plus hourly rental rates and allows drivers to reserve a car from one of 25 pick-up and drop-off locations around Honolulu. They can then open and operate those cars via smartphone app. The vehicles in the program include the Toyota Prius, Prius Prime and Camry XSE.

INRIX unveiled a new navigation solution that leads drivers directly to available on-street and off-street parking. INRIX Parking Path combines real-time traffic, incident and parking data to guide drivers along the fastest route to available parking that minimizes drive time, walk time and cost. INRIX Parking Path is available immediately in select cities in the US, Germany, the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia and Norway.

Hyundai and Baidu are extending their partnership to develop next-generation connected car technologies. As a first step in the partnership’s roadmap, Hyundai and Baidu will co-develop a connected car service that providesa wide range of in-car content, from real-time traffic status to live information about the user’s end-destinations, based on big data, maps, artificial intelligence (AI) and portal services.

Swedish start-up Einride unveiled the T-Log, a self-driving truck that transports felled trees from deep in timber country out into the civilized world. It’s so self-driving that it doesn’t even have a driver’s cab; humans can steer it via remote control, however, and an intelligent routing system ensures that whole fleets of T-Logs stay on route and on task. The trucks are expected to hit the market in 2020 and cost about $100,000 per rig.

Uber fired 100 members of its self-driving team, most of them vehicle operators, as the fall out continues from the fatal pedestrian crash in Arizona in March. Uber said that the lay-offs were part of a scaling back of its self-driving ambitions in the short term, although it reiterated that it isn’t abandoning its self-driving program altogether. To the contrary, it will be creating 55 new mission specialist positions in the coming months as part of an ongoing retooling.

Finally, Tesla announced that it has finally sold 200,000 electric vehicles. That means bad news for would-be “everyman” Tesla buyers, who will see the federal tax credit of $7,500 shrink by 50% in 2019 and then again by another 50% two more sales quarters down the road. Tesla’s Elon Musk was hoping that his company’s Model 3 would usher in a new era of accessibility for luxury EVsbut production woes coupled with now lousy timing is threatening that prospect.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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