Looks like the next Holy Grail in the auto industry could be the decision to take away the driver from the car, and let the vehicle do all the work. After Nissan, Daimler has also announced its plans to start selling a self-driving car by 2020.
According to Daimler head of development Thomas Weber, this plan is a part of its campaign to regain the top spot among premium carmakers – after it lost second position to Audi in 2011.
“We want to be the first to launch autonomous functions in production vehicles. You can be sure: we will accomplish that in this decade,” said Weber.
Daimler is focusing on so-called highly automated driving, in which cars master situations such as cruising the motorway or maneuvering through traffic jams while the driver relaxes. The car would recognize difficult situations such as dealing with traffic lights or urban driving among pedestrians and cyclists, and hand control back to the human behind the wheel.
Daimler’s Weber said it was still hard to forecast exactly when drivers would turn into passengers in their own cars. “Autonomous driving will not come overnight, but will be realized in stages,” he said.
One obstacle to overcome is making it legal for cars to steer themselves. European Union laws currently call for drivers to be in control of cars at all times, so test vehicles at Daimler and BMW need special approval in Germany, for example.
A Mercedes test vehicle recently traveled the same 100-km stretch between the German cities of Mannheim and Pforzheim that Bertha Benz drove 125 years ago to demonstrate the practicality of the automobile.