FRANKFURT, Germany — Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche on Tuesday said the debate surrounding the safety of Boeing's aircraft shows how hard it can be to win public acceptance for autonomous cars technology.
"What is very important is the psychological dimension. If you look at what is happening with Boeing then you can imagine what happens when such a system has an incident," Zetsche said, commenting about the car industry's efforts to develop autonomous cars.
In the wake of two plane crashes, regulators across the world have grounded the 737 MAX aircraft pending an investigation into whether Boeing's software-based automated flight control system is safe.
The auto industry should introduce autonomous systems in stages, as a way to build acceptance for complex but potentially safety-enhancing automotive technology, Zetsche said.
"Even if autonomous cars are 10 times safer than those driven by humans, it takes one spectacular incident to make it much harder to win widespread acceptance," Zetsche said.
Separately Zetsche said Daimler was considering introducing fuel cells to power electric buses and trucks. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that Germany needed to make radical changes in the vehicle sector by switching to electric or hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles.
Germany has earmarked 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) to support a consortium looking to produce electric car battery cells and plans to fund a research facility to develop next-generation solid-state batteries.