A pair of German industrial giants this week officially kicked off a pilot project in the heart of Silicon Valley that, they hope, will pave the way for autonomous taxis in dense urban corridors.
Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, and Bosch, an auto supplier and technology provider, first announced a joint effort to work on self-driving systems in 2017.
On Monday, the companies unveiled the autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans that will shuttle passengers from West San Jose to the city’s downtown, along the busy Stevens Creek Boulevard and San Carlos Street.
The service, which will be initially limited to a select group of users, allows riders to book a trip on an app developed by Daimler’s mobility division.
A safety driver will be in the vehicles to ensure nothing goes awry with the self-driving system — in accordance with California law — as the companies seek to determine how autonomous vehicles would work in a broader mobility ecosystem that includes public transit and car-sharing services.
Ultimately, the companies hope to build a system with the highest classification of automation — SAE Levels 4 and 5 — capable of being installed across a wide variety of vehicle types and models.
Daimler Mobility is also working on a fleet platform that would enable ride-sharing companies to easily incorporate self-driving Mercedes into their networks — a potentially important step given the problems some ride-sharing providers have experienced with autonomous technologies.
The announcement appears to narrowly beat the forecast set by Bosch and Daimler two and a half years ago: to put driverless cars on city streets by the beginning of 2020.