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Daimler, Bosch to test automated ride hailing in San Jose, Calif.

It'll use Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans with Level 4 and 5 automation

Daimler Bosch Mercedes-Benz S-Class autonomous ride hailing pilot
Daimler Bosch Mercedes-Benz S-Class autonomous ride hailing pilot / Image Credit: Daimler/Bosch
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Mercedes-Benz parent group Daimler and auto supplier Bosch say they've signed an agreement with the city of San Jose, Calif., to begin testing highly and fully autonomous vehicles in a ride-hailing pilot starting in the second half of 2019. The program will use Mercedes S-Class sedans fitted with Bosch's self-driving hardware but still have steering wheels and a human at the wheel ready to take over when needed.

The S-Class cars will be classified as Level 4 and 5 automation, meaning high and full self-driving capabilities, with concepts and algorithms jointly developed by teams from both companies. The service will launch in the San Carlos and Stevens Creek corridor between downtown and west San Jose in California's fast-growing and third-largest city.

Daimler Mobility Services will operate a mobile app users can use to summon rides, with the goal of providing information about how highly and fully autonomous vehicles can integrate with a multi-modal transportation network and improve traffic flow and safety. "The pilot project is an opportunity to explore how autonomous vehicles can help us better meet future transportation needs," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement.

Tim Wieland, a spokesman for Bosch, said details about the number of fleet vehicles and hours of operation were yet to be determined, but he said the intention was to start the pilot and grow it. Daimler has been providing development vehicles and testing facilities for the test fleet, while Bosch has focused on components like sensors, actuators and control units. Both companies are using their test labs, rigs and sites in Germany.

The two companies announced the test program last year but gave few details, saying only that negotiations with a then-unidentified host municipality in Silicon Valley were underway. Bosch and Daimler first joined forces for self-driving vehicle technology in April 2017, with teams working together in both Stuttgart and Silicon Valley. Bosch says it was the first auto supplier to test Level 3 autonomous vehicles on public roads in Germany and the U.S. in 2013, while Mercedes-Benz has been testing self-driving vehicles in the Bay Area since it obtained a permit from California in 2014.

Autonomous vehicle testing has had a checkered recent history in the United States. Most notably, a self-driving Volvo operated by Uber Technologies fatally struck a pedestrian in Arizona in March. Reuters recently reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working on revised rules regulating the operation of fully self-driving cars. Meanwhile, Alphabet's self-driving subsidiary Waymo recently became the first company to receive a permit from California to test driverless vehicles without a backup driver in the front seat. It plans to test about three dozen vehicles in Santa Clara County.

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