Daimler says self-driving truck test in Germany now weeks away

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German automaker Daimler said it expects to gain approval for tests of self-driving trucks on Germany's motorways "within the next few weeks", executive board member Wolfgang Bernhard told the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"Then we will start [testing] immediately," Bernhard said. The first German tests of the semi-autonomous trucks will take place in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg; the company has also previously been granted a licence to test autonomous trucks in Nevada in the United States.

The Daimler executive noted that mass-market production is still at least two to three years away. However, he believes that driverless trucks will actually be on the roads before cars--in part because trucks operate in "a less complicated traffic environment" on motorways.

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The German company also clearly believes it is well placed to compete with U.S. rivals such as Apple and Google that are also interested in the area of driverless and connected cars.

"We are leaders in this technology and will stand up for ourselves," Bernhard said.

Google began testing its self-driving cars in Austin, Texas earlier in the month in other to gather information about how its own prototypes interact with traffic, people and actual road conditions.

Meanwhile Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said last week that a consortium of German automakers are exploring the acquisition of Nokia's HERE navigation business to enable them to beef up anti-hacking software amid growing concerns over the safety of connected cars.

The consortium, which comprises BMW, Daimler unit Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, would seek to embed security features into HERE software and make the platform available to competitors, Zetsche said.

A deal on HERE--estimated at €2.5 billion ($2.7 billion) and €3 billion--is also more likely to move forward if the parties can agree on who would own key HERE patents following the sale.

Facebook, among others, has also expressed interest in the technology, although Nokia executives reportedly would prefer to sell to the Germans.

The issue of connected cars and safety is a hot topic right now. Only this weekend, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a record fine of $105 million to Fiat-Chrysler after the automaker was forced to recall its jeeps due to a security flaw that allowed hackers to remotely control the vehicle.

For more:
- see this Reuters story
- see this Fortune article
- see this BBC report
- see this Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article (in German)

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