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Efficiency and Intelligence mark our way to the future– Presentation of the Daimler Sustainability Report 2015
- Company once again achieves substantial reductions in CO2 emissions from production and products
- "Machine learning" applied at Mercedes-Benz to make autonomous driving even more intelligent
- Current legal framework is also suitable for the next stages of automated driving
Berlin. As a globally leading manufacturer of automobiles and commercial vehicles, it goes without saying that Daimler AG aspires to the highest standards with regard to sustainability. The company assesses the environmental impact of its products throughout their entire life-cycle and publishes its findings on a regular basis in its annual Sustainability Report. "Daimler is on a very high level when it comes to sustainability. To ensure we maintain this leading position, we invest systematically in environment-related projects in connection with the development and production of our vehicles - to the tune of 2.8 billion euros in 2015," notes Anke Kleinschmit, Head of Corporate Research & Sustainability and Chief Environmental Officer of Daimler AG.
The formula for success focuses on increasing efficiency as a means to relieving the strain on the environment and helping to conserve resources. Despite an increase in production across all divisions of over 5 percent, CO2 emissions at the plants were lowered by 1 percent over the same period. Energy-saving production technologies, efficient processes and environment-friendly energy supply were key contributory factors to this optimisation.
Also in the context of CO2 emissions, corporate fleet fuel consumption for the segment of passenger cars was cut by 5% in Europe, 3% in China and 5% in the USA. At 123 grams per kilometre, CO2 emissions for the new vehicle fleet of Mercedes-Benz Cars in Europe last year were markedly below the target of 125 grams per kilometre set for 2016. The ecological life-cycle assessment of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class provides a clear example of this positive trend. For example the E220d from this core model series shows a 29 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to its predecessor.
The future shape of motoring: zero emissions, connectivity and autonomous driving
The pointers along the road to the future for Daimler AG are zero emissions, connectivity and autonomous driving. This triad provides the foundations for current and future innovations, with the three pillars frequently interacting to drive technical advances. Digitalization enables an intelligent operating strategy for the plug-in hybrid vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, for example, by automatically controlling ideal interaction between combustion engine and electric motor. At the same time, intelligent processing of the data from improved vehicle sensing technology on the new E-Class takes partial automation to a new level.The model is furthermore the world's first series production vehicle to be awarded a test licence for autonomous driving in the US state of Nevada. This simply requires some software modifications, while the standard hardware otherwise remains unchanged.
“The intelligence on board the new E-Class represents a major step in the direction of autonomous driving. We are purposefully working our way through the technical challenges that lie ahead and progressing apace towards a highly automated form of driving. We will be putting so-called "machine learning" to maximum use here, with the aim of offering our customers unprecedented standards of comfort and safety in the near future,” stresses Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. A number of obstacles remain to be overcome on the way to autonomous driving for everyone, however, such as extreme weather conditions, different driving behaviour in different cultures and reliable traffic light recognition. These challenges can be mastered by even more intelligent vehicles: vehicles with the capacity to learn and to continually improve.
"Machine learning" is the key to even more intelligent vehicles
The ultimate aim for Mercedes-Benz vehicles is to become so smart that they will have their own solutions to hand for complex traffic situations. The key to achieving this is "machine learning." Similarly to the human brain, so-called "deep learning computers" interpret an image as a whole, rather than pixel for pixel. This means that vehicles do not require to be trained in every detail, but are able to interpret typical concepts relating to road scenarios in one city and apply these to another city, for example. Over time, Mercedes-Benz vehicles will apply machine learning to interpret their entire surroundings with even greater precision. They will even learn to predict people's intentions, by analysing their behaviour, movements, gestures and posture. Much in the same way as people are able to learn from one another, such interconnected vehicles will learn from each other and exchange information on road conditions, for example.
Daimler is already working in this direction. The new E-Class is the first production car to feature Car-to-X technology, for example, allowing it to communicate with other vehicles and the infrastructure. Also Daimler Trucks is investing around half a billion euros in providing its trucks with full connectivity.
Current legal framework also suitable for the next stages of automated driving
The usage of automated systems requires a reliable legal basis. "The legal framework that applies to the current driver assistance systems also forms a reasonable basis for the next stages of development. However, changes need to be made to the technical regulations as well as in view of the future of autonomous driving. We support the technical development from a legal, ethical and data protection perspective and promote a broad public debate" says Renata Jungo Brüngger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Integrity and Legal Affairs.
Established liability model also applies to automated driving
Who is liable when an automated vehicle is involved in an accident? No new laws are needed to answer this question. The legal situation in Germany and many other countries is clear: with regard to current, partial automated systems, the driver remains responsible. Although systems such as Lane Keeping Assist in the new E-Class support the driver, the driver still must control the vehicle and intervene in case of an emergency. If the driver causes an accident, he or she is liable for the resulting damage, along with the owner of the vehicle. Manufacturers are responsible for damages which flow from product defects. This shared combination of liability among the driver, owner and manufacturer offers a balanced distribution of risks, protects victims and has proven itself in practice. The liability model also provides a reasonable basis for new systems and for the next stages of automated driving. Autonomous driving has the potential to further improve road safety and traffic flow, and can therefore likely reduce the total number of damage and liability cases.
Autonomous driving as an interdisciplinary project
Daimler takes a close look at every aspect of autonomous driving. Beyond the technical issues, an interdisciplinary steering committee deals with its legal, ethical and data protection questions. This steering committee includes developers and engineers as well as a team of legal experts specializing in autonomous driving. They are joined by Daimler experts on data protection and compliance, as well as specialists from various fields including strategy, politics and communications. This ensures a confluence of different perspectives and areas of expertise already at an early stage of product development.
Daimler promotes public debate with various measures
Car manufacturers by themselves cannot answer all of the unresolved questions, including the ethical ones. These questions must be addressed in a wider debate. Daimler initiated this debate, and has been promoting it ever since through various measures. In addition to its participation in various bodies and associations, Daimler has been supporting the scientific research on autonomous driving as part of the "Villa Ladenburg" project since 2012. Last year, researchers published their white book to contribute to the discussion in the fields of industry, politics and research. Daimler held a symposium on "Autonomous Driving, Law and Ethics" in September 2015. The dialogue with stakeholders was continued in November as part of the Sustainability Dialogue 2015. This autumn, Daimler will once again make autonomous driving one of the main subjects of its Sustainability Dialogue. The event will be held in Stuttgart on November 9th and 10th, and will bring together representatives of industry with NGOs, politicians and scientists.