Daimler will launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in California during the second half of 2019, the company announced on Wednesday.
The automaker, which is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, will team with the auto manufacturer Bosch for the project and use self-driving technology from Nvidia. The service will operate in Silicon Valley on pre-selected routes, but Daimler did not disclose which city it will use.
The ride-hailing service will be free for users during its pilot phase, a Daimler representative confirmed. The representative also said the company will use Mercedes-Benz vehicles with human backup drivers for the pilot.
Daimler will also test a fleet of autonomous vehicles outside of the ride-hailing service.
Daimler and Bosch announced a partnership to work on self-driving vehicles in April 2017. Daimler provides test vehicles and facilities, which Bosch makes self-driving hardware. The companies plan to have self-driving technology ready for mass production by 2020. Nvidia will provide an artificial intelligence platform and software for the vehicles.
Michael Hafner, Daimler’s head of automated driving, said safety is a priority for its autonomous driving program.
“Safety has the highest priority, and is the constant theme of all aspects and development stages on our way to the start of series production. If in doubt, thoroughness comes before speed,” he said in a press release.
Daimler will join a handful of other tech and automotive companies that plan to debut autonomous ride-hailing services this year and next. Google’s Waymo plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix by the end of this year, and General Motors’ Cruise plans to do so in 2019. Jalopnik has reported that Cruise will locate its service in San Francisco.
Uber had planned to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in 2019 before one of its self-driving vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March. The company stopped testing autonomous cars on public roads after the incident, but plans to resume testing this summer after finishing a review of its self-driving program.
Ride-hailing services allow companies to restrict the areas where their autonomous vehicles can drive so they can avoid challenging features like snow and poorly marked roads.