Skift Take

Car companies are investing millions in developing vehicles that are as technologically-advanced as they are stylish in a race to be the first to market.

Mercedes-Benz, the world’s third- biggest maker of luxury cars, will test self-driving vehicles on Californian roads, adding to efforts by automakers to develop features for more comfortable and safer rides.

Mercedes received a newly required license from California authorities to conduct tests in daily traffic as it is expanding research operations in the U.S., the Stuttgart, Germany-based manufacturer said in a statement.

“We can now take autonomous driving to a new level,” Thomas Weber, head of research at Mercedes and parent company Daimler AG, said in the statement. “The knowledge that Mercedes-Benz gains will help to achieve significant strides in the further technological development of autonomous driving.”

The announcement comes two days after Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit, the world’s second-largest premium carmaker, said it received the first autonomous driving permit in California. Regulations require surety bond coverage of at least $5 million for each vehicle covered by a license and allow testing on any state road, according to the Ingolstadt, Germany-based company.

Mercedes said earlier today that it’s using a cloud- computing setup to protect data as cars’ mobile links and software expand and the industry prepares for driverless travel.

Security Strategy

Elements of the technology will include enabling people in a vehicle to control how much of their data is available to the outside world while they’re on the road, Christine Hohmann- Dennhardt, head of legal affairs at Daimler, said at a conference. Drivers will also have the option of erasing information automatically once they’ve left the auto.

“If we say we’re making safe cars, that doesn’t just apply to the mechanical technology but to data security,” Hohmann- Dennhardt said at the event in Stuttgart. Protecting information will be key to gaining customer acceptance of comfort and safety products, she said.

Technology for self-driving cars is forecast to become an $87 billion market by 2030, according to Boston-based Lux Research. That’s prompted automakers and insurers to look at how to prevent hackers from gaining access to information or even hijacking vehicles by remote control.

Mercedes tested a self-driving S-Class sedan on a 100- kilometer (60-mile) drive on public roads in Germany last year, and Daimler is also developing automated trucks. Computer- specialist contractors failed in a three-month attempt to hack into the S-Class’s systems, Ralf Lamberti, who runs Daimler’s user interaction and connected cars unit, said today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Christoph Rauwald in Frankfurt at; Dorothee Tschampa in Frankfurt at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Reiter at Robert Valpuesta, Tom Lavell.

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Tags: self-driving cars

Photo Credit: A black Mercedes-Benz SLS Roadster. Axion23 / Flickr