Mercedes-Benz says that the use of full autonomous cars in the future will likely be region specific, meaning certain cars will be designed and engineered for certain areas, which will see them unable to operate autonomously in other regions.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) today in Las Vegas, member of the board and head of group R&D for Mercedes-Benz, Ola Kallenius, said that there is no definite timeline on a full-autonomous car that is capable of performing every required task in all situations, but when that happens, it will likely be region specific.
“If you talk about full Level 4 or 5 autonomy, the first business case for that is in an area that is dense enough to have critical mass, basically a city, [it’s about] how quickly you can scale that and get the costs of the systems down,” Kallenius said.
“One day we will have the individual robot drivers, but if you walk around this show here you can see a lot of players, us included, putting a lot of resources and thinking into solving this problem. It’s a very difficult problem to solve because of the level of safety that you have to achieve."
"I wouldn’t think that [it would work] from the mountains to downtown New York to create the Swiss Army knife [of autonomous driving solutions], but it’s about the use case and the ones that are most relevant to customers are the ones that you can monetise first,” he added.
Backing up Kallenius comments, was Mercedes-EQ expert Sajjad Khan, who’s in charge of the connectivity of all Mercedes-Benz digital systems, including both the brand’s infotainment systems and its autonomous driving technologies.
According to Khan, Mercedes-Benz is incrementally developing the systems for levels one, two, three and four autonomous driving technologies, whilst also in parallel “developing the path for Level 4-5”, with the brand committing to have some form of autonomous car to show off sometime in 2020-2021. Even so, plenty of challenges remain.
“The major thing is that for different markets around the world, based on the different infrustracute, how can you cover all the use cases?” Khan said.
“That’s why, for Level 4 and 5, we would be talking about it yes, but for that specific town or region and district - that’s why you know its for that use case, [if it works here] when you take it to Mexico etc wont work.”
The challenge to the produce a fully autonomous car remains massive, and neither Khan or Kallenius would be drawn into comments from other manufacturers that they have already produced cars capable of level 4 or 5 autonomy (namely Tesla).