Companies across the world are pouring millions into efforts to develop and test autonomous driving systems – mostly in the form of cost-saving and expertise-pooling partnerships.
One of these involves Daimler, the world’s largest maker of premium cars, and Bosch, the world’s biggest automotive supplier. As part of what is dubbed “Project Athena,” the two currently have teams of engineers working in both Stuttgart – the home city of both companies – and Silicon Valley. Their aim is not only to develop the technology needed to tackle this incredibly complex challenge, but also to make fully autonomous vehicles ready for series production.
“Developing automated driving to a level ready for series production is like a decathlon,” said Stephan Hönle, an executive in Bosch’s Automated Driving unit. “It’s not enough to be good in one or two areas. Like us, you have to master all disciplines.”
In the second half of 2019, the companies also plan to begin pilot tests – initially, but not exclusively in California. The app-based mobility service will involve self-driving “robo-taxis” designed for city driving and offering free shuttle service on selected routes, though they will have a steering wheel and a safety driver. As part of the cooperation, Bosch will provide technology such as sensors, actuators and control units while Daimler will supply the vehicles and test facilities.
In another such partnership, Daimler also signed a memorandum of understanding in July with Baidu, China’s leading internet search provider, to expand their collaboration in the fields of automated driving and intelligent connected vehicles. In specific, they will intensify their collaboration on Apollo, Baidu’s open autonomous driving platform, as well as integrate Baidu’s vehicle connectivity services into Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX infotainment system.