German consumer goods and automotive giants Bosch and Daimler are to launch a citywide pilot in the US to test autonomous vehicles in a challenge to US tech firms like Waymo and Uber.
The driverless car project will see Mercedes Benz cars designed for a driverless car shuttle service. The project will aim to develop Level 4 and Level 5 capabilities of autonomous driving, meaning cars will be able to drive without any human interaction.
Both Bosch and Daimler have been making a push into driverless cars and ridesharing. Daimler has taken stakes in businesses to rival Uber, including a majority stake in MyTaxi and a joint venture with ridesharing start-up Via.
The companies are set to launch a pilot project in a city in the San Francisco Bay area in 2019 which will see a mix of autonomous cars, car sharing and ridehailing programmes launched in tandem.
The test fleet will be operated by Daimler Mobility Services, while the cars will be equipped with Nvidia artificial intelligence chips to control the on-board computers.
Last year, the two companies signed a deal to begin developing a fleet of driverless taxis. The trial will see the cars reaching Level 4 and 5 of automated driving. The cars will initially have a safety driver, the companies said, however they will eventually have the ability to be entirely self-driving.
Dr Michael Hafner, head of automated driving at Daimler and Dr Stephan Hönle head of automated driving at Bosch stressed safety would be a priority. Tests of driverless cars on public roads have come under scrutiny in the US since a fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving car in March.
Dr Hafner said: “Safety has the highest priority and is the constant theme of all aspects and development stages on our way to the start of series production. If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed.”