Daimler and Bosch say they’ll test a self-driving car in a ride-hailing service in California in 2019.
The two German companies didn’t say which model Mercedes car or SUV they’ll use, only that the first self-driving taxis will put safety drivers behind the wheel, just in case, and will incorporate Pegasus, Nvidia’s self-driving hardware and software package. According to Automotive News, later iterations of the car will use a Bosch system based on Nvidia hardware.
There’s a lot the companies didn’t say. For one, they haven’t selected the city in California where the program is to roll out. For another, they haven’t specified which sensors the cars will have, and how many of each kind. Nor do they dwell on whether ride sharing is the long-term model for usage or just a convenient means of testing equipment that, in the pre-mass-market stage, must remain too expensive to buy, even if you’re a Mercedes customer.
The program seems part of a bandwagon effect sparked by Waymo, the industry leader. Waymo designs all its own software and not a little of its hardware—for instance, it makes its own lidar sensors. Waymo’s been running a ride-hailing service for some time, and late last year it became the first company to manage the job without a safety driver behind the wheel.
GM’s Cruise says that it, too, will ditch the driver in its pilot ride-sharing program next year. Drive.ai is about to start shuttling passengers around a town near Dallas, though it will employ safety drivers for some time to come.
Philip E. Ross is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. His interests include transportation, energy storage, AI, and the economic aspects of technology. He has a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and another, in journalism, from the University of Michigan.