Will Daimler and Bosch join to form an autonomous-car dream team?

Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion concept

Self-driving cars have gone from a curiosity to a major priority for a lot of big companies. From automakers to tech firms, it seems everyone is getting in on it. But not every company wants to go it alone.

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and mega supplier Bosch are the latest to form a partnership with the goal of developing autonomous cars. The two companies hope to have a fully autonomous car ready for driving in urban areas by the “beginning of the next decade,” a Daimler press release said.

In the future, Daimler expects city dwellers to be able to summon an autonomous car with a smartphone, and ride it where they need to go. It’s a logical next step for a company already involved in the mobility-service business (through its Car2Go car-sharing service). It’s also not the first time a sharing-based approach has been discussed: Ford plans to release its first self-driving car in 2021 for ridesharing services initially, and doesn’t expect the car to be available for purchase until at least 2026.

Deploying self-driving cars in sharing services first allows companies to roll out the technology in a more controlled manner. It may also prove to be a more economically attractive model than private sales. Shared self-driving cars could stay on the road much longer than human-driven ridesharing vehicles, generating more revenue for an operator.

Without offering any real details about how it plans to achieve this goal, Daimler said the partnership would aim to develop software allowing for SAE Level 4 and SAE Level 5 autonomy. The Society of Automotive Engineers laid out these autonomy levels back in 2014, with the lowest level being zero (no autonomous capability). Level 5 is the highest level, and signifies a car designed to operate with no human interaction whatsoever.

Will Daimler and Bosch be able to pull that off? It’s hard to say, but there is certainly no shortage of competition. From automakers like Ford, Tesla, and Nissan to tech companies like Uber and Waymo, the autonomous-driving bandwagon is getting very crowded.