German auto giants join forces to develop self-driving cars

German high-end car giants BMW and Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler said Thursday they would work together to develop automated driving and driver assistance systems, the latest cooperation for the historically fierce rivals.

German auto giants join forces to develop self-driving cars
A self-driving car goes for a test drive at a BMW test campus opened in 2018 near Munich. Photo: DPA

The two manufacturers have sealed a “long-term, strategic cooperation…to
make next-level technologies widely available” by around 2025, they said in a joint statement.

Munich-based BMW and Stuttgart's Daimler plan first to focus on so-called
level three and four systems on an internationally-recognized scale for
automated driving.

SEE ALSO: BMW opens campus for self-driving cars near Munich

They will stop short of level five — which would see the on-board computer
take over completely from the human driver under all circumstances.

Rather, the hoped-for technology will at first offer driving and parking assistance and limited autonomy on motorways.

“Instead of individual, stand-alone solutions, we want to develop a reliable overall system,” said Daimler board member Ola Kallenius, who is set to take over from departing chief executive Dieter Zetsche in May.

The firms would “discuss the possibility of extending their collaboration
to cover higher levels of automation, both on highways and in urban areas,”
they said.

SEE ALSO: Germans worry driverless cars will take the fun out of their favourite pastime

Already in January 2015, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche presented his vision for self-driving cars at a technology fair in Los Vegas. Photo: DPA

“Other technology companies and automotive manufacturers” could be invited aboard in future, the companies added.

Thursday's announcement marks the latest cooperation between BMW and
Daimler, who have otherwise been locked for years in a near neck-and-neck race for dominance of the global high-end car market.

Last week, the groups announced a €1 billion investment in combining their carsharing and other apps into a joint scheme
offering short-term rentals, parking spots and electric charging points, taxi
and chauffeur hailing and journey planning.

Partnerships have been proliferating across the auto industry as increasingly massive investments are needed to develop new technologies.

Honda recently invested in General Motors' self-driving car unit, BMW is
working with Intel and Fiat, and Daimler has linked up with components
supplier Bosch.

SEE ALSO: Up to 1,000 jobs to be created as German car giants turn to carsharing

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Germany’s Daimler to cut ‘at least 10,000’ jobs to fund electric shift

German luxury automaker Daimler on Friday said it would slash at least 10,000 jobs worldwide in a major cost-cutting drive to help finance the switch to electric cars.

Germany's Daimler to cut 'at least 10,000' jobs to fund electric shift
Daimler's headquarters in Stuttgart at night. Photo: DPA

 “The total number worldwide will be in the five-digits,” Daimler personnel
chief Wilfried Porth told reporters in a conference call, after the group said
in an earlier statement “thousands” of jobs would be axed.

He added that the company intended to save €1.4 billion in staff costs. The cull includes slashing management jobs worldwide “by 10 percent”.

READ ALSO: Germany boosts support for electric cars with cash bonuses and a million charging points

“The automotive industry is in the middle of the biggest transformation in its history,” Daimler said.

“The development towards CO2-neutral mobility requires large investments,”
it added.

Along with other manufacturers, Daimler is scrambling to get ready for tough new EU emission rules taking effect next year, forcing it to accelerate the costly shift to zero-emissions electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

The group, which employs 304,000 people globally, said the job cuts would be achieved through natural turnover, early retirement schemes and severance packages.

Daimler's announcement comes as the mighty German car industry is buffeted by trade tensions, weaker Chinese demand and a darkening economic outlook.

Other major car companies have in recent months already unveiled plans to cut some 30,000 jobs in the sector over the next years.

Germany's Audi said it wants to axe 9,500 jobs, followed by more than 5,000 each at Volkswagen and car parts supplier Continental, while Bosch aims to cut more than 2,000 roles.

READ ALSO: Audi to slash 9,500 jobs in Germany

US car giant Ford plans to scrap some 5,000 jobs in Germany alone.

Electric engines require fewer parts and are less complicated to assemble than internal combustion engines, needing fewer hands.

But auto bosses have said thousands of new, hi-tech jobs will also be created in the electric era to make cars more autonomous and connected.

German automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer has said he believes the German car sector — which currently employs 800,000 people — will shed 250,000 jobs over the next decade.

A total of 125,000 new ones will be created, he predicted.

Daimler returned to profit in the third quarter and said it was expecting 2019 revenues to be “slightly above” last year's, while operating profit would be “significantly below” the €11.1 billion in 2018.

The group was this year hit by expensive recalls and a €870 million fine for having sold diesel vehicles that did not conform with legal emissions limits.