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Daimler Starts Testing Autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class Taxis in California

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【Summary】Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, has started testing self-driving S-Class taxis in California that will be used to gauge consumer interest.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 06, 2019 11:30 AM PT
Daimler Starts Testing Autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class Taxis in California

Numerous companies have started to test autonomous vehicles in California. The state's incredible weather and lenient legislation have made it a prime spot for testing. Currently, there are over 60 companies with the necessary permits to test vehicles autonomously in the state. Mercedes-Benz is one of them, and it's starting to put its testing permits to work.

Look Out For Mercedes Robotaxis

According to Automotive News Europe, Mercedes-Benz's parent company, Daimler, has started testing robotaxis in the United States. An unnamed source that's familiar with the robotaxi tests claims it's taking place in California. While Mercedes is testing self-driving taxis in the state, Daimler's CEO Ola Kallenius claims that the program won't result in a robotaxi service. Instead, the autonomous technology will most likely be put toward commercial cars for freight companies, reports the outlet.

A year ago, Daimler and Bosch partnered to bring driverless S-Class prototypes to test in San Jose. Shortly after that, Mercedes-Benz reportedly stated that it was taking a hard look at the future of self-driving vehicles. Apparently, the project is still underway and now includes a fleet of 30 vehicles. They're all equipped with LiDAR and an array of sensors.

"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," said an unnamed source. "This pilot program is about capturing the user experience."

Apparently, the self-driving S-Class sedans can operate on their own, but Mercedes has safety drivers behind the wheel in case something goes wrong. It makes sense to put safety first, as Daimler really is primarily using the program to "gain knowledge of what customers want or demand from a self-driving car," states the outlet.

A Robotaxi Service Isn't In The Cards

To Daimler, California becomes another location to test its autonomous vehicles. The German automaker has been testing Level 4 self-driving cars in Stuttgart, Germany for some time. But the tests in California mark the first time Daimler is letting people outside from the company ride in the vehicles.

San Jose, California became the prime location for Daimler and Bosch's testing because of the expected population growth. Automotive News claims the city's population is expected to grow by 40 percent over the next two decades. The city is doing quite a lot to ensure that it's ready for autonomous vehicles, which made it a good spot for the two companies.

Autonomous S-Class robotaxis may be on California's roads, but Daimler sees autonomous commercial vehicles, like semi-trucks, to be a more lucrative business than ferrying humans from one location to another. Even personal autonomous vehicles that can handle all driving tasks on the highway will come out before robotaxis, claims the outlet.

Having a real-life robotaxi service that's at full scale doesn't make sense for the brand as it would tie up much-needed capital and result in an unknown amount of earnings. "At this juncture to be the first one out to do something like that at scale does not make sense," said Kallenius. "We are not stopping developing the robotaxis We will go into the market when it's right, and we do not think that is in the short to midterm."

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