Dieter Zetsche, cautious about autonomous cars. Modern technologies can hide deadly traps

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Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s managing director, curbed his enthusiasm about autonomous cars: the only way to introduce this technology is to go step by step, so that trust can be built in these systems over time.

Taking advantage of the harsh and sometimes violent debate surrounding the safety issues of Boeing’s new airplane 737 Max, Dieter Zetsche recalled how difficult it will be to win the interest and acceptance of consumers for autonomously driven vehicles.

We recall that due to two crashes that claimed all lives on board the new Boeing 737 Max, regulators around the world have forced airplanes to remain on the ground during investigations that are being made to Boeing’s base software for complete automation of airplane. But if very few people can choose with which equipment to fly, with cars it is very differentWhat is happening with the Boeing 737 MAX shows that even the most modern technologies can hide deadly traps and that nobody is ever really safe.

“What is very important is the psychological dimension. If you look at what is happening with Boeing then you can imagine what happens when such a system has an incident,” Zetsche said,during the China Development Forum in Beijing. Of course we learn from mistakes and the chances of an accident are reduced. But it takes very little for even the best technology to be destroyed by the emotional impact that affects public opinion.

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“The auto industry should introduce autonomous systems in stages, as a way to build acceptance for complex but safety-enhancing automotive technology that has the potential to save lives. But, as Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s CEO, says, “even if autonomous cars are 10 times safer than those driven by humans, it takes one spectacular incident to make it much harder to win widespread acceptance”.

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Another hot topic of discussion was the possible alliance with rival BMW. Zetsche did not want to rule out that Daimler and BMW will develop joint platforms beyond the areas of mobility services and autonomous driving, thus leaving the door open to a common electric platform, as revealed in our story from this week. “It makes sense to do some things together,” said the Daimler CEO. When asked if this was a platform, Zetsche said, “We will see, we will see.”

Parallel to these statements, Dieter Zetsche, on his way out of the CEO position of Daimler and Mercedes (replaced by Ola Kallenius), said that Daimler is considering introducing hydrogen fuel cell technology to electrify its buses and trucks. For Zetsche, electromobility is only a bridging technology in order to reduce CO2 emissions now. In the long term, Zetsche continues to regard the fuel cell as the better technology, which, however, can not yet be used in mass production.