Daimler and Bosch are partnering to accelerate the development of self-driving cars. The two companies will collaborate on software and algorithms for autonomous driving that they hope will yield a fully-automated car "by the beginning of the next decade."
For now, Daimler and Bosch are concentrating on urban driving only. Their goal is to create areas within cities where people can simply hail an autonomous car via a smartphone app. In essence, like Ford and its planned autonomous car for 2021, the Daimler/Bosch autonomous-driving project will be geared toward ride-sharing.
Daimler seems to view this plan as the next step beyond current car-sharing services, like its own Car2Go service. Instead of a person going to the car, as is the case with today's car-sharing services, autonomous driving will allow the car to come to its user, Daimler says.
The joint project with Bosch is aiming for SAE Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy. In 2014, the SAE defined six levels of autonomy, with Level 0 signifying no autonomous capability. Level 4 includes conventional cars with a high enough level of automation to make manual controls redundant, while Level 5 includes cars not designed to be operated by humans at all.
The difference between a car that's capable of fully-autonomous driving and one that operates with no human intervention at all times is bigger than it might seem. But Level 5 autonomy may very well be necessary to unlocking the convenience benefits of autonomous ride-sharing, where cars are always available because they never stop moving. That model is also attractive from a business perspective, because it maximizes the revenue a company can get out of a car, while eliminating the cost of paying a driver.