A silver BMW 5 Series is weaving through traffic at roughly 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph) on a freeway that cuts northeast through Bavaria between Munich and Ingolstadt. I'm in the driver's seat, watching cars and trucks pass by, but I haven't touched the steering wheel, the brake, or the gas pedal for at least 10 minutes. The BMW approaches a truck that is moving slowly. To maintain our speed, the car activates its turn signal and begins steering to the left, toward the passing lane. Just as it does, another car swerves into the passing lane from several cars behind. The BMW quickly switches off its signal and pulls back to the center of the lane, waiting for the speeding car to pass before trying again.
The concept of a self-parking car certainly isn't new, but Daimler is about to take the next logical step on that front. It's partnering with Bosch to launch an Automated Valet Parking service at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. When it launches at the start of 2018, anyone (not just museum guests) can rent cars that will not only drive themselves out, but park themselves upon return. You just need a smartphone app to both make the reservation and the virtual handover when you're done. The key is the combination of Mercedes' self-driving tech with Bosch's smart car park grid.
Volkswagen is working with Nvidia to expand its usage of its artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies beyond autonomous vehicles and into other areas of business, the two companies revealed today. VW set up its Munich-based data lab in 2014. Last year it pushed on with the hiring of Prof. Patrick van der Smagt to lead a dedicated AI team that is tasked with taking the technology into areas such as'robotic enterprise,' or use of the technology in enterprise settings. VW wants to use AI and deep learning to power new opportunities within its corporate business functions and, more widely, "in the field of mobility services." As an example, the German car-maker said it is working on procedures to help optimize traffic flow in cities and urban areas, while it sees the potential for intelligent human-robot collaboration, too.
Germany is taking on the U.S. (and China) when it comes to autonomous vehicles. On Wednesday, Volkswagen and Hamburg announced a self-driving pilot program on the city's streets. While many cities and states in the U.S. have been testing robo-cars for years, Germany only recently approved testing. Munich has been an autonomous hot spot thanks to BMW's research center, but now a nearly 2-mile stretch of Hamburg will allow a fleet of five e-Golf vehicles to drive the streets. SEE ALSO: Microsoft partners with BMW to build car systems in'smart factories' There will be safety drivers behind the wheel testing out Level 4 automation, which is almost fully autonomous, but still requires a human in some rare instances, such as unplanned street closures or severe weather.