LAS VEGAS: It's the era of connected cars and autonomous driving, and Mercedes-Benz — the German luxury carmaker — intends to roll out a 'robot car' by the year 2021. Interestingly, the company is carrying out a large amount of R&D for autonomous and connected cars at its research lab in India — its biggest development centre outside Germany. Ola Kallenius, the global R&D head for Daimler (Mercedes' parent) and its board member, said that tech companies such as Google, Amazon, NVidia and Microsoft are increasingly playing a key role in the development of new forms of mobility as cars become more intelligent and connected.
"We are in a very strong transformational phase now. And there are four mega trends that are driving this transformation — connectivity, autonomous drive, different types of shared mobility and services, and electric drive," Kallenius told at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here. Mercedes has been working on a variety of new technologies, and at the CES unveiled the company's 'intelligent' multimedia system, MBUX — Mercedes-Benz User Experience. Interactions with the voice-assisted system can be done by saying 'Hey Mercedes' and the set-up then develops on augmented reality, artificial intelligence and speech recognition to transform into an intelligent assistant.
"We have been working with tech companies since the inception of the car industry. What's happening now is that many things are coming together where the car industry and the tech industry are intersecting. That is why next to the traditional suppliers like a Bosch or a Magna, you suddenly see names like Intel, NVidia and companies like that," Kallenius said. With intelligence and constant learning being built into vehicles, he said that cars are becoming more than mere mobility tools. Speaking about autonomous cars, Kallenius said that the first business case would be a "robot taxi". "There will be a computer in the car that drives the car."