Daimler, Bosch Begin Testing Self-Driving Cars

The German companies are shuttling a select group of riders along a busy San Jose corridor.

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 cityโ€™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 Daimlerโ€™s mobility division. A safety driver will be in the vehicles to ensure nothing goes awry with the self-driving system โ€” in accordance with California law โ€” 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 โ€” SAE Levels 4 and 5 โ€” 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 โ€” 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.

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