Mercedes is said to have abandoned its plans to develop autonomous car-sharing vehicles.
The Daimler (Mercedes’ parent company) and BMW groups recently announced the termination of their partnership for the development of autonomous driving, which began in 2019. And today, the German publication RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland reveals that Mercedes has also abandoned the development of 100% autonomous vehicles dedicated to car sharing, a project conducted with the equipment manufacturer Bosch and announced in early 2018. “We see our vehicles as robot cabs from the outset and not as a bundle of technologies implemented in series production vehicles; it’s not a question of doing things by halves,” said Wilko Stark, Daimler’s vice-president in charge of strategy at the time.
This decision would be motivated by two major factors. The first would be the gap between Germany, the European Union as a whole, and the United States in terms of know-how and regulations. On the other side of the Atlantic, Waymo enjoys more permissive regulations for testing its autonomous vehicles on open roads on a large scale, while being a subsidiary of Google, which specializes in software development, unlike traditional car manufacturers such as Mercedes. “We don’t participate in any race that we can’t win anymore,” a spokesperson for the brand was quoted as saying.
Robot cabs not profitable enough?
The second reason evoked by this Mercedes representative would be the too low return on investment of the development of these vehicles often nicknamed robo-taxis or autonomous cabs, especially in this period of health crisis affecting severely the activities of the manufacturers. “You can’t make money with offers like carpooling. Our investors expect not only sales, but also and above all profits. (…) Conversion to a mobility provider is a thing of the past,” he is quoted as saying.
Mercedes would therefore like to focus on its historical speciality: luxury. To this end, the manufacturer recently announced that it would expand its high-margin, premium subsidiary Maybach and create a fully-fledged range from the equally profitable G-Class. Mercedes is also banking heavily on its future electric vehicles. Finally, luxury also includes driving aids, which Mercedes considers semi-autonomous driving, but driverless cabs no longer seem to be the order of the day.
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