Mercedes-Benz's parent company, Daimler, announced their intention today to put self-driving taxis on the road in three years or less in a partnership with Bosch.
The program will reportedly be an Uber-like experience, from hailing a cab from your smartphone, to having a human operator in the vehicle (at least at the start). According to a press release from Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Inc.:
The prime objective of the project is to achieve the production-ready development of a driving system which will allow cars to drive fully autonomously in the city. The idea behind it is that the vehicle should come to the driver rather than the other way round. Within a specified area of town, costumers will be able to order an automated shared car via their smartphone. The vehicle will then make its way autonomously to the user and the onward journey can commence.
While an interesting development for Mercedes-Benz, automakers trying to get into the driverless taxi business is nothing new. Uber, of course, started with ride-sharing before creating its driverless program, but they aren't alone. Car manufacturers like Ford, GM, and BMW, apart from developing autonomous vehicles, all want to break into this blood-thirsty enterprise.
What's intriguing about Mercedes-Benz's driverless ambitions is how prepared they seem; The automaker already has experience in ride-sharing with its Car2Go program, and has the supplemental expertise of the ride-sharing app it purchased in 2014, Mytaxi.
The partnership with Bosch makes sense, too; They've already teamed up with world-renowned artificial intelligence chip maker NVIDIA to help automakers take their driverless cars to the next level.
The partnership's goal is to "bring fully automated (SAE Level 4) and driverless (SAE Level 5) driving to urban roads by the beginning of the next decade," according to the press release.
Daimler's announcement comes a day after Navigant ranked the company fourth in self-driving innovation, just behind Ford, GM, and Renault-Nissan Alliance, but ahead of giants like Waymo, Uber, and Tesla. Whether Navigant's ranking is related to this news can't be known for sure.
What can be known for sure is this; Uber placed 16th on the list, even with its established taxi business, and its media dominance in the driverless game. If Navigant's report is to be trusted, this makes Daimler's future in autonomous taxis look bright.