The Germans will focus on Level 3 autonomous driving instead.
Mercedes-Benz says it won't be pushing into the autonomous taxi segment. This news follows days after Ford and Volkswagen binned their robotaxi business, Argo AI.
According to Markus Schafer, Merc's Chief Technology Officer (CTO), the brand is focused on Level 3 autonomous driving, as found in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Schafer recently met with the California DMV, Highway Patrol, and NHTSA to get feedback regarding Mercedes' advanced systems and how they might be implemented in the state. Speaking to The Verge, Shafer revealed that Mercedes is no longer committed to autonomous taxis.
"They understand technology, the sense of redundancy [in computing], our safety philosophy, and even how we educate customers on this Level 3 system. So a very important milestone here, meeting with the regulators, explaining the system, and preparing the application," said Schafer.
For now, the focus stays here, though Schafer says at one point Mercedes was eyeing the robotaxi game. "We thought in 2016 or 2017, we could solve the robotaxi problem quite quickly." However, the confidence faded soon as the bills piled up.
Much like the ill-fated Argo AI, Mercedes culled its robotaxi program. Combining Drive Pilot and a ride-hailing system proved too expensive, even for Mercedes.
Speaking of Argo, it appears that Ford and VW reached the same conclusion. Ford announced recently during its Q3 earnings call that it and VW would split the technology developed by Argo and that it would focus on Level 2 and 3 autonomous driving software instead.
However, this doesn't mean Mercedes is totally out of the taxi game, like VW and Ford. It will still supply human-driven taxis all over Europe. Per Schafer, having those taxis driven by robots, or Level 5 autonomous systems, if you want to be technical, is not worth it.
"Would you wait five minutes longer for a Mercedes robotaxi? I don't think so," Schafer said.
Schafer also shared that the new EQXX concept will form an integral part of the new Mercedes EQ lineup. "You will see a dramatic reduction in electric consumption [compared] to what's out there today." The CTO wasn't heavy on the details, but the EQXX's 900-volt architecture will play a role.
Mercedes' 2024 battery platform will use silicone anode cells and new cooling concepts. Schafer even says that the motors in the EQXX are essentially the ones we can expect in future models. Mercedes is targeting a 20-30% improvement in range.