Uber, Mercedes-Benz parent partner on self-driving cars – USA TODAY
Ride-hailing service Uber and Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, announced a partnership Thursday to work together on future self-driving cars.
The goal would be to produce cars that can run on Uber’s ride-hailing network.
In a statement announcing the partnership, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick didn’t give a timeframe, only saying the program would be operational “in the coming years.”
Uber has been one of the most aggressive companies in trying to develop self-driving cars, envisioning the time when driverless cars prowl the streets of major cities picking up and dropping off passengers.
“By opening up the Uber platform to Daimler, we can get to the future faster than going it alone,” stated Kalanick. “It’s a future in which our cities and roads will be safer, cleaner and more accessible, and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s next.”
Uber has launched self-driving experiments in various U.S. cities.
•Pittsburgh. Last year, it began operation of two dozen Ford Focus sedans with driverless capability to see how they will work in regular Uber service. A human sits behind the wheel ready to step in if the driverless system makes a mistake.
•San Francisco. Uber stopped the driverless car testing program in December in its hometown after refusing to get a state permit for the operation.
•Phoenix. After the San Francisco trouble, Uber took its self-driving car fleet to Chandler, Ariz. The state’s governor welcomed it.
For its part, Mercedes-Benz has showed off self-driving tech at auto shows and the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show, in Las Vegas.
In Paris last year, Mercedes-Benz showed the Generation EQ concept. The all-electric SUV is powered by twin electric motors, and appears to be configurable for the hardware to accommodate autonomous driving.
In his statement, Kalanick made no secret about Uber wanting to avoid becoming a car company.
“Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber has no experience making cars – and in fact, making cars is really hard. This became very clear to me after I visited an auto manufacturing plant and saw how much effort goes into designing, testing and building cars.”
Interestingly, the auto plant Kalanick is referencing just happens to be Daimler’s own headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, which he visited in the summer of 2016. At the time, as reported by Bloomberg, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said the two companies could one day become “frenemies,” in the spirit of friendly competition amidst the growing push toward automated driving systems.