Mercedes-Benz is considering setting up a large fleet of self-driving limousines in what would amount to a high-end rival to Uber.
The German carmaker’s chief executive, Dieter Zetsche, admitted that he saw potential in offering on-demand self-driving cars as a natural extension of the services which parent firm Daimler already owns, namely its car sharing and mapping services.
A Mercedes-Benz event on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, Zetsche admitted that developing driverless transport services with limousines was "a concrete goal" of the German car maker.
Daimler, which owns a number of car brands including Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG, currently owns its own car-sharing service, car2go, which allows users to locate and rent a nearby vehicle from a fleet of Daimler-owned vehicles using a smartphone.
Zetsche discussed his latest ideas in relation to car2go saying that "It would be even more convenient if the car came to you autonomously”. He added it would be “extremely practical if the car2go appeared without needing to be prompted, once my appointment in the calendar had come to an end”.
The company’s other services would also fit together well in the creation of a Uber-like service. In August it bought Nokia’s high-definition mapping service HERE. Last year it bought cab hailing app, MyTaxi which tracks cars progress and pay for the ride using a smartphone.
Zetsche said that the combination of car rental services and autonomous vehicles would open up profitable business opportunities. He said “you don't need too much imagination to see that by combining these strengths, attractive business models are possible in future”.
While self-driving cars are not expected to arrive in showrooms until 2025, Mercedes-Benz has already developed an S-class limousine which drove between Mannheim and Pforzheim in 2013 without driver input.