With warm weather and indulgent legislation, California has become one of the most popular places in America for companies looking to test autonomous technology. Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler has joined the list of tech firms and automakers putting driverless systems through their paces in the Golden State, according to a recent report.
The news comes about a year after Daimler and Bosch teamed up to deploy autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class-based prototypes in San Jose, and a few short weeks after company CEO Ola Källenius warned that his team of engineers had taken a reality check on self-driving cars. Anonymous sources told industry trade journal Automotive News Europe that the project is nonetheless moving forward, and approximately 30 prototypes are part of the latest round of testing.
“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. This pilot program is about capturing the user experience,” a source told the publication. Additional information like where testing is being carried out remains under wraps.
The source stressed the main point of the pilot program is to gather information about what customers want in an autonomous taxi, not to test the hardware that powers the car. And while the prototypes are fully autonomous, they’re being deployed on public roads with a safety driver behind the wheel in case something goes wrong. Daimler, like most of its rivals, seems to be taking a safety-first approach to technology that remains tremendously experimental.
More than 60 companies have received a permit to test autonomous cars on California roads from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The list also includes Volkswagen, Waymo, Tesla, BMW, Nissan, Subaru, Nvidia, Lyft, Samsung, and Apple. All of these companies agreed to put a safety driver in their prototypes. They must also report any and all collisions to the DMV, and file an annual report highlighting the instances when the autonomous system had to be switched off.
With CES 2020 around the corner, Daimler could announce more information about its pilot program in the coming weeks. Digital Trends has reached out to the company, and we’ll update this story when we learn more.
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