Mercedes Benz & Bosch Launch a Pilot Robotaxi Service in Silicon Valley
Like many other automakers, Mercedes Benz parent company Daimler is busy developing autonomous driving technologies in Silicon Valley, joining a host of other automakers that have set up shop here to be closer to tech companies, mobility startups and top talent in the San Francisco Bay Area working on self-driving cars.
Mercedes Benz along with its partner tier-1 automotive supplier Bosch, announced its is launching a pilot project for an app-based ride-hailing service in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose.
The service will ferry passengers in a Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan equipped with a self-driving system co-developed by Mercedes-Benz and Bosch. The pilot ride-hailing service will operate on a route from the west side of San Jose to its downtown core along the busy thoroughfare of Stevens Creek Blvd.
Although the vehicles will be "self-driving" there will be a safety driver behind the wheel ready to take over for any unexpected situations the vehicle may encounter.
The pilot ride-hailing service will initially be available to a select group of users. Daimler did not disclose the number of users participating in the pilot.
Users will have access to a smartphone app developed by Daimler Mobility AG to book a trip in an automated S-Class vehicle from a defined pick-up point to their destination. The app is similar to how customers would hail a ride in an Uber or Lyft vehicle.
The two companies want to develop a production-ready system that can be integrated into different vehicle types and models to turn them into self-driving vehicles.
The Mercedes Benz S-Class vehicles in the pilot are outfitted with various hardware for self-driving.
Mercedes-Benz and Bosch have been working closely together over the past several years on developing solutions autonomous vehicles in cities with a goal to develop a Level 4/5 driving system for driverless vehicles, including the software for vehicle management. Level 4 and 5 autonomous system are defined as "fully autonomous" and require little to no human intervention.
Mercedes-Benz and Bosch hope this trial will provide valuable insights for the further development of their automated driving systems. The partners hope to learn more about how self-driving cars can be integrated into a more comprehensive mobility ecosystem that also includes the integration of autonomous vehicles with public transportation and car-sharing services.
Instead of relying on the total miles driven in autonomous mode as a benchmark, Mercedes Benz and Bosch engineers are using computer simulations and specially designed proving grounds to address the kind of driving situations that occur only very rarely in road traffic, known as "edge cases."
San Jose and its "Smart City Vision"
The launch of the robotaxi pilot in San Jose fits well with the California city's "smart city vision" designed to address the city's growing traffic problems and quality of life with modern technology solutions. Part of the initiative is to develop the city's transportation innovation zone to test new products and services, such as autonomous vehicles, that will shape how people get around and help ease traffic congestion.
"It's not just the automated vehicles that have to prove their mettle. We also need proof that they can fit in as a piece of the urban mobility puzzle. We can test both these things in San Jose," says Dr. Uwe Keller, head of autonomous driving at Mercedes-Benz AG.
San Jose was the first U.S. city to invite private companies to carry out field tests of automated driving and analyze the growing challenges in road traffic in 2017. City officials believe that self-driving cars can potentially enhance safety, and their smooth driving style can improve traffic flow.
"As a city, we want to know more about how automated vehicles can help improve safety and reduce congestion, as well as make mobility more available, sustainable, and inclusive. The project of Mercedes-Benz and Bosch ties in with San Jose's extensive ‘smart city' objectives. It will also help us develop guidelines for dealing with new technologies and prepare for the traffic system of the future," said Dolan Beckel, Director of Civic Innovation and Digital Strategy in a statement.
San Jose also aims to build an "Internet of Things" platform using transit vehicles and infrastructure by using smart sensor technologies to improve safety, mobility, and optimize our transit system.
Engineers at the Daimler's Immendingen testing and technology center in Germany are further refining the driverless technology at the company's 100,000 square-meter proving ground designed especially for automated driving.
At the proving grounds, complex traffic situations can be reproduced extremely accurately as many times as needed to test a vehicle behavior before its deployed on public roads.
In its partnership with Bosch, Mercedes-Benz is making sure the jointly developed driving system ready for installation in the vehicle, and providing the necessary trial vehicles, test bays, and test fleets to the partnership. While Bosch will develop and manufacture the components required for autonomous driving.
Daimler Mobility AG, the financial and mobility arm of Daimler, is also developing and testing a fleet platform to accompany the pilot. The fleet platform allows potential ride-hailing partners to seamlessly integrate self-driving Mercedes-Benz vehicles into their offerings.
An app-based mobility service for conventionally driven Mercedes-Benz vehicles went into operation in the Bay Area in the fall of 2019.
Mercedes Benz has been working on autonomous technology since 2014, when the company obtained a autonomous vehicle testing permit from the California' DMV. In early 2013, Bosch was the world's first automotive supplier to test level-3 autonomous driving on public roads in Germany and in the United States.
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