Big automakers have taken a few years to recognize that shared autonomous vehicles could hamper their business model, but now they have made a move regarding this
Mercedes Benz has taken a few years to recognize that shared autonomous vehicles could damage their business model—selling human-driven cars to individual humans—but they’re now making real progress toward the finish line. The company took a cautious step into the swamp stomp, announcing plans to launch a self-driving car pilot somewhere in Silicon Valley.
Automated shuttle and safety
The Company is calling its service an automated shuttle, but it’s not referring to some blobby, slow-moving van. It’s going to start out using a fleet of S-Class luxury sedans and B-Class hatchbacks, with long-term plans for vehicles designed for autonomous driving, like the F 015 Luxury in Motion concept it showed off a few years back.
It does plan to have human safety drivers on board to keep an eye on the system. Passengers who will request rides via an app will travel for free. The Germans are more open about the lessons they’ve learned watching the self-driving car industry start to take shape, including the many complexities of the challenge.
Partnering with bosch
The company is partnering with Bosch, automotive suppliers, which has a strong track record in building active safety systems and some of the semi-autonomous systems now on luxury cars. The two companies will together work on the sensors these vehicles use to perceive the world and the software that makes the actual driving decisions. But that’s just part of the problem.
One of the toughest challenges for any autonomous vehicle is coping with the huge pile of data a suite of lidar laser sensors, radars, cameras, and other sensors can produce. A single Bosch stereo camera generates 100 gigabytes of data every 0.62 miles. Bosch and Mercedes Benz calculated that they’ll need the equivalent computing power of six, highly-advanced, desktop workstations in each car to handle it all, but the space demands and power draw make that an obvious non-starter.