Interesting story at Fortune from a few days ago from David Meyer, titled “Why Mercedes’s Self-Driving Trucks Are Set to Overtake Its Robotaxis” (nice spin).
Don’t hold your breath for a self-driving Mercedes car anytime soon.Fortune
Don’t worry, I wasn’t 😂
But everyone who was can now exhale!
At Daimler’s capital market day in London on Thursday, new CEO Ola Källenius said there was a “reality check setting in” regarding the Merc-maker’s plans for building fleets of so-called robotaxis—a project on which it is collaborating with the German industrial giant Bosch.Fortune
If you see a self-driving “collaboration”, they blew it.
“Hey, did you figure out how to make the car drive itself?”
“What?!? I thought you were going to figure that out!”
“Well shit the deadline is next week!”
“Sir, a reality check has set in across the team”
Instead, Källenius said, the technology would be used in trucks first.Fortune
Yeah, this technology is definitely not safe enough to use in cars. Let’s shift gears and put it in much bigger heavier cars that can do a lot more damage. They’re mostly on the highway traveling at high speed, so what could go wrong?
Daimler—which is in the throes of cost-cutting as it scrambles to become a serious player in the electric era—will meanwhile “rightsize” the amount it is shelling out on autonomous tech for passenger cars.Fortune
For those who don’t speak bullshit, “rightsize” means “this is a failure and we can’t afford to keep paying you anymore, so you’re fired”
But what’s behind Daimler’s gear shift? It’s all about safety and a newfound realization that it will be some time before self-driving vehicles can be used in urban environments, company spokesman Bernhard Weidemann told Fortune.Fortune
Nobody tell that company spokesman that Tesla Autopilot already works in urban environemnts and has over 2 billion miles logged. He might crap his pants.
There are two main reasons why Daimler is focusing on robotaxis before privately-owned autonomous cars. Firstly, the vehicles are going to start off pretty expensive—all those new sensors don’t come cheapFortune
Crazy thought –– if your autonomous technology is too expensive to sell maybe you shouldn’t be depending on overpriced LIDAR sensors?
the plan is to have the robotaxis’ autonomous capabilities gradually trickle down in the form of ever-smarter driver-assistance features in new Mercedes cars on the regular market (and in new BMWs, as the two German companies are collaborating on such systems.)Fortune
Translation: Daimler is headed for bankruptcy unless they figure out a better autonomy strategy (Hint: license Autopilot)
The second reason is that Daimler can deploy a fleet of robotaxis in a defined area, which should help as it grapples with those safety issues. Even if those with deep pockets might be happy to pay a fortune to be early buyers of self-driving Mercs, they would justifiably want to take them into all sorts of unfamiliar environments.Fortune
If you see a geo-fence, they blew it. True self-driving cars need to be able to handle any environemnt, whether they’ve seen it before or not. If it only works in a small area, it’s most likely a piece of shit.
We believe from our experience in developing safe driving systems that we really need to get the whole basics [right] before we scale them. If you scale them too early, you might run into a problem that is really difficult to fix later.Daimler Spokesman Bernhard Weidemann, via Fortune
Translation: We haven’t even figured out the basics of how this is going to work yet.
Weidemann would, for competitive reasons, not be drawn on the specific technical challenges Daimler has identified for autonomous vehicles in this context. But the problems are there, and the German firm wants to “take a little bit more time” before putting fully autonomous cars on city streets.Fortune
He didn’t have time to list all the problems.
“We do have over 130 years of safety and of brand value to lose, which we are obviously taking very good care of,” Weidemann added.Fortune
Yes, the brand is sure to fetch a fair price in bankruptcy court.
Also, love this comment from Ruby on Rails creator DHH:
Yes, just because Daimler can’t do it nobody can. Let’s check back in a year to see what Autopilot can do. I don’t know if you’ll be able to sleep yet, but it’ll likely be damn close.