The US and Europe, especially Germany, have been in a rat race over the automobile industry for decades. The rise of self-driving cars have swung the pendulum in the US’ favor, with European car makers now striving to put themselves on that map as well. However, they might have a bit of catching up to do if statements from Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s chief exec, is to be weighed. In the company’s visit to Silicon Valley, he discovered that Apple and Google have made more progress in that industry than they had previously assumed.
Perhaps they were belittling the two company’s capabilities in the automotive industry. After all, neither Apple nor Google had any prior experience when it comes to designing cars. And yet as Zetsche discovered for himself, they might actually be formidable rivals, if not partners, in this still niche market.
What’s interesting is that it is also a subtle yet still indirect confirmation that Apple indeed has been working on a car of its own. That Google is working on a self-driving car has been no secret for a few years now, but Cupertino has been very secretive about its own plans. Whether Zetsche was referring to CarPlay or a self-driving car itself, he doesn’t say.
Daimler is into self-driving vehicles as well and even has a self-driving truck. That, of course, isn’t its sole mission. Growing its Mercedes-Benz marque in the US is, and it foresees a 1 to 1.5 percent growth this year. That said, the German car maker will most likely be meeting some apprehension and doubt, given how fellow German company and rival Volkswagen has cast doubt over car emissions results.
Luckily for Daimler, its cars have not been involved in any of the engine scandals. Or at least not according to Germany’s own KBA vehicle agency. Zetsche and a number of Daimler execs have been going around Silicon Valley, meeting with as much as 70 companies, including startups, to investigate areas where cars and technology can intersect better.