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Bosch, Daimler end joint robotaxi project

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By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Bosch and Daimler have confirmed media reports about the premature end of the Athena joint project. According to the reports, the two companies are currently in talks about the timetable and conditions for the termination. In the joint project, the two companies have been working since 2018 to develop software, hardware and sensor technology for fully autonomous vehicles (“robotaxis”) for use in urban environments. In this context, the newspaper Automobilwoche quoted Bosch CEO Harald Kröger as saying that the challenges of developing a robotaxi were “greater than many had thought”.

The project aimed to develop techniques for fully automated driving (SAE Level 4) and driverless driving (SAE Level 5). Spokespersons for Bosch and Daimler pointed to the progress that has now been made in the technical field. “The cooperation between Bosch and Daimler has reached important milestones, for example in the field of environment awareness, localisation and driving strategy,” said a Bosch press spokeswoman.

She pointed out that the companies have jointly put pilot vehicles and experimental vehicles on the road both in California and in complex German urban traffic, which robustly and safely negotiated challenging routes without the need for safety drivers to intervene. “We have already successfully piloted an app-based ride-sharing service with automated driving S-Class vehicles in San José in Silicon Valley in 2019,” a Daimler spokeswoman said. “Furthermore, important new technologies, software and patents have been developed in the areas of environment awareness, localisation and driving strategy, among others.”

Independently, both companies stressed that the termination of the project was decided on the best of terms and that the two partners will continue to carry out joint projects in the future. “The results achieved are to be transferred to the respective further, independent development of the two companies. Bosch and Daimler will continue to work together in a spirit of trust,” said the Bosch spokeswoman, for example.

One of the joint projects currently underway is an Automated Valet Service (AVP) for parking garages. In this field, the two partners have jointly developed an AVP according to SAE Level 4 until it is ready for approval; currently, the first commercial application at Stuttgart Airport is about to go into operation.

Moreover, both companies want to further advance the development of automated and driverless driving. In parallel to the joint project, Bosch is developing solutions for private vehicles with a focus on driver assistance and semi-automated systems to make driving more comfortable and safer. The Bosch spokeswoman also referred to current developments for new operator models and for the automation of fleet vehicles. “Especially in the field of logistics, we see attractive application possibilities and great business potential,” she said.

Similar comments were heard from Daimler. The company continues to consistently drive forward the transformation to electrification and digitalisation. “A central component of this is the technological further development of automated driving,” a spokesperson said.

The spokeswoman also commented on the Mercedes roadmap. According to this, the company is on the verge of technically realising the safe operation of automated driving vehicles, clearing the legal hurdles for automated driving and introducing corresponding vehicles – albeit only at SAE Level 3 for the time being – into series production. As an example, the spokesperson mentioned the new S-Class, which will be available with the corresponding equipment from the end of this year. The new electric flagship of the Stuttgart company, the EQS model, will be available from next year with the special equipment called “Drive Pilot” at Mercedes, with which the car can drive highly automated up to 60 km/h even in heavy traffic or traffic jam situations on suitable motorway sections.

In this context, the spokesperson also referred to the development cooperation with the chip manufacturer and AI technology company Nvidia. Together, the two companies are in the process of developing an in-vehicle computer system as well as an AI computing infrastructure, which is to be introduced for all Mercedes model series from 2024.

https://www.bosch.de/en/

https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/company/

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