By on January 24, 2016

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said a recent trip to Silicon Valley revealed that tech companies such as Google and Apple were making significant progress on autonomous cars, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported (via Reuters).

“Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed. At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought,” Zetsche said, according to the report.

Zetsche said he and other managers from the automaker met with tech companies in Silicon Valley, but didn’t disclose what those companies were. 

“There were concrete talks. I will not say anything about the content. It was not just about the fact that there is an innovative spirit in the Valley. We know that already. We wanted to see what drives it, and all the things that can be created from it,” Zetsche told the paper, explaining that they had also looked at start-up firms.

Zetsche’s comments about Google and Apple were especially surprising considering it’s unclear whether those companies could supply automakers with autonomous technology or build their own cars. Zetsche said last year that Google would be a better supplier than automaker.

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20 Comments on “Daimler CEO: Google, Apple Further Along With Car Projects...”

  • avatar

    I think it helps that cars have pretty much all of the needed hardware now. If you’ve got a vehicle with adaptive cruise control, auto-park assist, lane-keeping assist, forward collision avoidance, 360-degree cameras, and blind-spot monitoring, you pretty much have everything but the software.

    • 0 avatar

      >> think it helps that cars have pretty much all of the needed hardware now

      For level 3, that’s true. For level 4, you’re missing significant hardware. For level 4, you need a significant bump in the vehicles ability to anticipate potential problems and that means a major upgrade in computing capability, sensors, and software. Level 3 can handle bambi and friends running onto the road. Level 4 would have to do something like determine if an underpass on the interstate is flooded and if it’s passable or not.

      Sensors can be an issue. Last week the nose camera on my car was getting caked with sleet and the rear camera was picking up crap as well. If the lidar wasn’t sitting back at the lab, it would have been blinded too.

  • avatar

    Can someone please explain why all the automakers are putting so much effort into autonomous cars? What is the real societal benefit autonomous cars will give us?

    • 0 avatar

      Not that societal benefit is motivating the OEMs but no more head-ons or rear-enders would be a nice result.

      Pie in the sky stuff, though. How do you ever get all the human-driven vehicles off the road?

    • 0 avatar

      really? you’re seriously asking what benefit there is to taking cars out of the control of incompetent, inattentive meatsacks? here’s a few:

      1) 30-40,000 fewer deaths every year
      2) millions of gallons of fuel not wasted by people sitting in snarled traffic
      3) the end of road rage

      the average driver has demonstrated repeatedly that he/she has no idea how to operate a motor vehicle safely in a consistent matter. Hell, if the automobile was to be invented today, it would be very difficult to be allowed to own one. But personal car ownership is ingrained into this society, so self-driving/linked vehicles it is.

      • 0 avatar

        US auto deaths in 2014 numbered 32,000. You’re assuming ALL auto deaths would be eliminated? You’re assuming there will be no traffic jams, with cities, counties and states spending hundreds of billions to set up systems autonomous vehicles can use to avoid them? You’re assuming less wasted fuel when autonomous vehicles may be going WAY out of the way to avoid traffic, choosing slower speed limit roads over shorter stretches of freeway? You’re assuming the passengers looking at their smart phones won’t notice it’s taking longer to get there?

        All of the things you mention may be reduced, but not eliminated. You’re claiming ideal conditions, when people in rural areas still have to put up signs reading, “private dirt road, no access. Your GPS is wrong.”

        • 0 avatar

          I’m skeptical that driverless cars will truly be driverless, but your thought process is strangely off point for someone who claims to be a traffic engineer.

          Since you worked on highways, you should understand the purpose of metered onramps and why they actually aid with reducing congestion even though they require drivers to stop. A driverless system should have fewer of the bottlenecks and crashes that contribute to congestion (although there will presumably still be congestion because improving the flow of traffic should encourage more driving, resulting in more traffic.)

          • 0 avatar

            Actually only a driverless system that tells you when you can leave or arrive at a destination can reduce bottlenecks. Even metered ramps can be overwhelmed by sheer numbers of people on the same schedule, hitting the same roads at the same time. That’s the real cause of bottlenecks, and driverless cars won’t have much impact.

          • 0 avatar

            If driverless cars work as intended, then they should reduce the wave effect. Much of the wave effect comes from drivers who think that they’re getting ahead by gunning it (and braking hard when that doesn’t work) and cutting off other drivers instead of just maintaining a steady speed.

            “When you tap your brake, the traffic may come to a full stand-still several miles behind you. It really matters how hard you brake – a slight braking from a driver who has identified a problem early will allow the traffic flow to remain smooth. Heavier braking, usually caused by a driver reacting late to a problem, can affect traffic flow for many miles.”


      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        Excellent comment JimZ. Well put.

    • 0 avatar

      Most crashes are caused by humans who make poor choices. Eliminate the humans from the equation, and crash rates should fall dramatically (assuming that the technology works as intended.)

      What doesn’t make sense is for the automakers to start assuming liability for the crashes that do occur. At this point, OEMs are responsible for virtually no crashes; with autonomous cars, they would be at fault for almost all of them. Not much of a reason for them to want to own those wrecks.

    • 0 avatar

      dwford, I think that I can answer your question. I am 70 years old. Sometime in the next ten years I will be deciding when to hang up my keys. Autonomous cars will allow me and a lot of other old farts to stay somewhat mobile. Will it be better to have self driving cars or would you rather have all of us old farts trying to go to the grocery store and endangering everyone on the streets. A few years back, I had to take my Dad’s keys to keep him from driving. He had no intention to stop driving and he was 89 at the time. How many deaths will be prevented by getting the older drivers out from behind the wheel?

    • 0 avatar

      Would you turn down a free chauffeur service?

  • avatar

    The concern is what sort of problems self-driving cars will cause and situations that they will not handle. Will they always cruise at 55 MPH in a 55 zone? Will they let you hurry when you’re running late? How will they handle fog? Would anyone trust them on a winding mountain road next to a steep drop-off? Will they avoid potholes or plow right through them? Will they adapt to gravel roads? Can they handle a parking garage?T How about an area with no GPS? The list goes on and on.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget the moral/ethical aspect. Will your car kill you by running into a tree to avoid running into a school bus? Will your autonomous vehicle make that kind of judgement and off you in favor of a greater good? Autonomous cars as people envision it will have to incorporate some sort of artificial intelligence, and even Bill Gates has misgivings about that.

      It’s easy for science fiction writers to formulate rules like “always obey your human masters, and do nothing to harm them”, but programming that into a machine with an intelligence and will of its own isn’t going to be easy. It may not even be possible, and we’d better find out before we go too far.

      • 0 avatar

        The autonomous car will do what you would do — slam on the brakes and hope for the best.

        But the driverless car won’t be speeding, tailgating, making suicidal turns across traffic, getting angry or drinking six beers and smoking a joint prior to driving. It won’t be drowsy, texting, spilling coffee in its lap, passing on blind curves in the opposing lane, fumbling for a tune on the radio or MP3 player, or worrying about the children bickering in the backseat. So it will have far fewer reasons than you would to slam on the brakes.

        Most crashes are caused by people who do dumb things or screw up, and the driverless car won’t be inclined to do most of those things, although it will occasionally blow it.

        • 0 avatar

          “The autonomous car will do what you would do — slam on the brakes and hope for the best.”

          No that’s what YOU would do. I see people drift their way out of accidents all the damn time. Brake, steer, back on the gas, counter steer, brake again, then simply pull away without a scratch. Or put it into the dirt, landscaping/cactus or sidewalk to avoid a major accident, with just minor damage. I’ve done it countless times in a million plus miles driving.

          “But the driverless car won’t be speeding, tailgating, making suicidal turns across traffic, getting angry or drinking six beers…”

          Of course not. But other drivers won’t??

          The driverless car may never do wrong, but driverless cars (German driverless cars especially), will still stall, get a blowout, lose a wheel, hit debris, a massive pot hole, and countless other situations. The same can happen to normal human driven cars/trucks sharing the road with driverless cars.

          A human can process, calculate and react to in a flash, taking the path of least resistance (or least damage/injury, say into a corn field) instead of just braking and waiting to get slammed, hoping there’s a trauma center close by.

          All a processor can do is brake, hope and kiss its motherboard goodbye.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Medical emergencies aside, why should they let you “hurry when you’re running late”? Does the speed limit only apply to individuals who left adequate time for their journey?

      If autonomous cars are successful in reducing the accident rate, then we should be able to increase speed limits on certain stretches of road.

  • avatar

    +1 Can they find street parking that isn’t driveway or hydrant?

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