Daimler is calling its service an “automated shuttle,” but it's not referring to some blobby, slow-moving van. It’s going to start out using a fleet of S-Class luxury sedans and B-Class hatchbacks, with long-term plans for vehicles designed for autonomous driving, like the F 015 “Luxury in Motion” concept it showed off a few years back.The automaker is still negotiating the particulars of the deal, has not divulged which city will host this program, and being cagey on details like how many cars will make up the robo-fleet. It does plan to have human safety drivers on board to keep an eye on the system. Passengers, who will request rides via an app, will travel for free. The Germans are more open about the lessons they've learned watching the self-driving car industry start to take shape, including the myriad complexities of the challenge. “Hardly any company can meet this challenge alone,” says Uwe Keller, Daimler's head of autonomous driving.That.'s why Daimler is partnering with Bosch, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, which has a strong track record in building active safety systems and some of the semi-autonomous systems now on luxury cars. The two companies will together work on the sensors these vehicles use to perceive the world, and the software that makes the actual driving decisions. But that's just part of the problem.One of the toughest challenges for any autonomous vehicle is coping with the gargantuan pile of data a suite of lidar laser sensors, radars, cameras, and other sensors can produce. A single Bosch stereo camera generates 100 gigabytes of data every 0.62 miles. Bosch and Daimler reckon they’ll need the equivalent computing power of six, highly-advanced, desktop workstations in each car to handle it all, but the space demands and power draw make that an obvious non-starter.To help there, Daimler will work with Nvida, whose Pegasus AI supercomputer marks its best combination yet of minimal power consumption with maximum performance—try 300 trillion operations every second. Because it can get a bit hot when running at full speed, the companies are planning to integrate water cooling for the computer into an electric car’s battery coolant system.
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