Daimler and Bosch self-driving cars will offer rides in Silicon Valley in 2019

Daimler and Bosch self-driving car prototype

Daimler and Bosch, two giants of the auto industry, have been jointly developing a self-driving system which they will be ready to trial in the second half of 2019.

The first of the trials will be run in the heart of Silicon Valley, specifically between downtown and west San José along the busy San Carlos/Stevens Creek corridor. With more than a million residents, San José is the third biggest city in California.

Crucially, the first trial will run just a few short miles from the headquarters of Apple and Alphabet Inc., two rivals competing in the self-driving car race.

The trial will be an on-demand ride-hailing service using self-driving car prototypes based on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It won’t be a public trial, though, as only select users will be able to hail a ride, via a dedicated app. And there will still be a safety driver behind the wheel for monitoring purposes.

Urban environment with self-driving cars

In addition to testing the self-driving system, the trial will look at how self-driving cars can be integrated into existing transport networks. It’s still unclear how many cars Daimler and Bosch will deploy in the trial.

The two firms have teams working together on the complex software to control the self-driving cars, with Nvidia’s Drive Pegasus chosen to provide the computing power. In addition, Daimler is tasked with integrating the software and hardware into cars, as well as providing the prototypes and test facilities. Bosch is tasked with handling the components specified during the development work, such as sensors, actuators, and control units. Both firms have been testing self-driving cars on public roads since at least 2013.

Daimler and Bosch announced in 2017 that they are working to develop a Level 5 self-driving system. However, the cars in the trial will operate at Level 4 capability. A Level 4 self-driving system can operate without a driver in select conditions. The conditions usually include operating within a pre-determined, sufficiently mapped area, known as geo-fencing, as well as within certain weather restrictions. The ultimate goal is the Level 5 system which can handle all conditions expected of a human.

Daimler and Bosch will face stiff competition from two frontrunners in the self-driving car race. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo plans to launch the first commercial self-driving car service later this year in Phoenix, Arizona, while General Motors gears up to commercialize self-driving cars in 2019.

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