Daimler, Uber to Partner on Self-Driving Cars

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News
Car and truck maker Daimler AG plans to introduce and operate self-driving cars on Uber’s ridesharing network “in the coming years” under a new partnership between the companies.

Although both firms are independently developing automated driving systems for commercial trucks, the intended cooperation between Daimler and Uber currently incorporates only passenger cars, Daimler spokeswoman Andrea Berg told Transport Topics.

Under the agreement, Daimler aims to deploy Mercedes-Benz passenger cars equipped with self-driving technology on Uber’s global ridesharing platform, she said, adding that the companies will continue to develop details of the partnership.

The agreement does not include an exchange of research and development technologies between Daimler and Uber, Berg said.

Financial terms were not revealed.

Mobility service providers such as Uber “offer an ideal platform for autonomous driving technology,” Dieter Zetsche, Daimler chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said in the Jan. 31 announcement.

“As the inventor of the automobile, Daimler aims to be a leader in autonomous driving — one of the most fascinating aspects of reinventing mobility,” he said.

In a blog post announcing the partnership, Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick said self-driving cars hold the potential to reduce traffic accidents, free up space currently used for parking and cut the congestion that is “choking our cities.”

“Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber has no experience making cars — and in fact, making cars is really hard,” he said.

Aside from cars, Daimler and Uber are among the most prominent developers of self-driving technology for commercial vehicles.

Daimler Trucks, which manufactures Freightliner and Western Star trucks in North America, has held multiple, high-profile demonstrations of its self-driving truck technology. The original equipment manufacturer introduced its Highway Pilot automated driving system in July 2014 on a Mercedes-Benz truck in Germany and later unveiled its self-driving Freightliner Inspiration concept truck in May 2015 at the Hoover Dam.

Meanwhile, Uber’s Otto division has been developing self-driving aftermarket kits for heavy-duty trucks.

In October, a truck equipped with Otto’s technology delivered a load of beer for Anheuser-Busch in Colorado, an event the company described as the first commercial delivery by a self-driving truck.

Otto, founded by former Google engineers, was acquired by Uber in August.

In addition to its self-driving truck system, Uber is developing Uber Freight, a marketplace aimed at automating transactions between shippers and carriers in a manner similar to its popular ride-hailing mobile app for car passengers.