Daimler backpedals on self driving ambitions

The company has experienced a "reality check" and will put its development resources elsewhere.

Daimler is the latest automaker to acknowledge that its original plans for self-driving technology may have been too ambitious.

Like most rivals, the German automaker has discovered that it is taking more money and more time to commercialize true self-driving tech that could be used in a fully autonomous taxi service.

Daimler chief Ola Kaellenius told media yesterday that the company has reevaluated its business prospects for autonomous technology, concluding that it may be applicable to long-haul trucking in the near term but may prove exceedingly costly to launch for robotaxi fleets.

"There has been a reality check setting in here," he said, as quoted by Reuters

The executive's comments reflect the industry's struggles to bring self-driving tech across the finish line. Demonstrations on single routes or within geo-fenced areas are relatively simple compared to the level of refinement required for a wide-scale rollout. Companies have consequently fallen behind their most ambitious launch targets and are presumably spending more than expected to complete the final development stages.

Apparently leader Waymo may have expected such uncertainties and challenges, wisely avoiding public disclosure of deployment targets. The company still continues to test its fleet in a relatively small area of Phoenix suburbs and has hesitated to quickly expand into new regions.

Daimler has decided to scale back funding for self-driving tech, estimating that full-scale deployment would "tie up a lot of capital" with no certainty regarding earnings potential. Self-driving tech is expected to disrupt the ride-hailing industry, though it may not leave room for many players.

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