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Daimler and Bosch Will Launch a Pilot Robotaxi Program in San Jose in 2019

I don't know the way in San Jose, my car has a brain and won't go wrong and lose its way

2 min read
A gray car with a slogan 'Urban Automated Driving' printed on the side is shown in motion on a road.
San José will be the pilot city for Daimler and Bosch's automated on-demand ride-hailing service.
Photo: Daimler

Daimler and Bosch say they’ll offer a self-driving ride-hailing service to selected users in part of San Jose, beginning in the second half of 2019.

The service resembles the one that Waymo’s been conducting for a year in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix, Ariz. Waymo has already begun to experiment with charging a fee for the service, although only pre-selected users are allowed to pay it. That means it isn’t quite commercial yet, though that step is expected to follow in 2019.

And, although San Jose is a much larger town than Chandler, those Mercedes robotaxis will ply only a main corridor and some nearby areas. In a word, they’ll be heavily geofenced. Other constraints, such as the time of day and the state of the weather, may also be added, Bernhard Weidemann, a spokesman for Daimler in Stuttgart, tells IEEE Spectrum. Such constraints would be relaxed later on, as the pilot program progresses.

General Motors subsidiary GM Cruise is also slated to start a commercial pilot in 2019, a commitment that chairman Mary Barra recently reiterated. And just last week, Volkswagen and Intel’s robocar subsidiary Mobileye announced that in 2019 they will begin an experimental pilot program in Israel, apparently in Tel Aviv.

The Daimler-Bosch project will be based on a top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz S class car modified with sensors, including lidar. It will do most of the processing on a Nvidia Drive Pegasus chipset, augmented by hardware from Bosch and using algorithms that Daimler and Bosch are already developing together in a pilot in Germany. Some of the sensors may also be sourced from third parties. The high-definition mapping will be supplied by Here, a company in which Daimler is a major stakeholder.

GM Cruise plans on basing its service on a Chevrolet Bolt that’s had the steering wheel removed. I asked Weidemann if the Mercedes S class will come that way, too.

“For the pilot phase, we will have a steering wheel,” he says, sounding a little surprised by the question. “The safety driver needs to take control if something goes wrong.”

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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