Daimler is planning to make available for sale a self-driving car by 2020, as part of its bid to help its Mercedes-Benz brand become the best-selling premium carmaker in the world, according to development chief Thomas Weber. He remarked that Daimler wants to be the first carmaker to launch “autonomous functions in production vehicles,” which they intend to accomplish “in this decade."
Daimler is paying attention to so-called highly automated driving, wherein cars are able to cruise the highway or maneuver through traffic jams while the driver relaxes.
The car would also be able to recognize difficult situations like dealing with traffic lights or urban driving among pedestrians and cyclists. According to Weber, it was hard to forecast exactly when drivers would turn into passengers in their own cars. "Autonomous driving will not come overnight, but will be realized in stages," he remarked.
Daimler is not alone in pursuing automation to make driving not only safer but also more comfortable. It joins a number of suppliers and carmakers in the race to offer the first autonomous vehicle to the market. Nissan has disclosed plans to introduce a car completely guided by computers this decade and is already testing the technology in many countries.
Internet giant Google has also equipped several cars with radar-like equipment that allows them to navigate roads in California and Nevada. Google will feature its own automated driving technology at the 2013 Frankfurt auto show set this week.
Experts, however, think that it would take between 10 and 15 years to fully realize this technology. Auto parts supplier Continental, meanwhile, is developing a technology that allows cars to drive themselves at speeds of up to 30 kph (18 mph) by 2016, and at up to 60 kph by 2020. Google is reportedly holding talks over an alliance with Continental on self-driving cars.