Autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class models are on the streets of Northern California.
Last month we reported on how Mercedes parent company Daimler is finding it hard to make autonomous cars "There has been a reality check setting in here," Daimler AG Chief Executive Ola Kaellenius told journalists back in November.
The German auto group hasn't just given up, though. Instead, it's "rightsizing" on its commitment to building autonomous vehicles. Back in 2018, Daimler AG Robert Bosch said that San Jose, California's third-biggest city, would be the pilot city for trials of a highly automated driving ride-hailing service. According to Automotive News Europe, Daimler has followed through on that commitment and is now rolling out its test vehicles.
"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," Automotive News Europe's source told the outlet.
Northern California is a technology hotspot, and Daimler and its autonomous tech partner Bosch have a research facility not too far away in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara. The test fleet of 30 vehicles is mainly made up of Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans, although Daimler said in November that it would more likely apply its development technology to freight orientated commercial vehicles.
Like the vast majority of the similar autonomous pilot and testing schemes out there now, the test vehicles will be driving the cars, but there will be a "safety driver" behind the wheel to take over if the need arises. Like other pilot schemes as well, Daimler is looking for direct feedback on what customers want and need from a robotaxi service, as well as gathering data on its systems for refinement.
Daimler already has Level 4 cars out on the roads near its other research facility in Stuttgart, Germany. However, the tests in California are the first time that it won't be Bosch or Daimler employees using the vehicles.