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Zetsche, Tesla's Musk have similar timetables for self-driving cars

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche believes that during this decade there will be Mercedes-Benz cars with assistance programs that can take over driving on the highway -- first without the ability to pass, then with it -- as well as the ability to park the vehicle after the driver has exited. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have very similar timetables for when they think autonomous cars will be on the road.

Musk said that in five years or less the technology will be advanced enough for fully autonomous driving to be a reality. Then it will take another two to three years to:

1) Prove that self-driving cars are safe.

2) Draw up the rules to regulate autonomous driving.

“Therefore, it will take about seven to eight years for it to launch,” Musk said during a press conference following his presentation at the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday.

Zetsche, meanwhile, believes that during this decade there will be Mercedes-Benz cars with assistance programs that can take over driving on the highway -- first without the ability to pass, then with it -- as well as the ability to park the vehicle after the driver has exited.

When asked by reporters at the Detroit auto show on Monday for his estimate on when fully autonomous cars would be ready to launch Zetsche said, “not this decade but I think within the next.”

Mercedes is a pioneer in the field as its S-class flagship sedan already offers technology that can take over driving during a traffic jam. While Musk’s Tesla models don’t offer the technology now, he said they will have autonomous driving abilities in the future.

Musk said people have good reason to be concerned about the safety of autonomous cars. He believes that people and governments will be reluctant to accept autonomous vehicles until tests can prove that a self-driving car is 10 times safer than a car driven by a person.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com -- Follow Douglas A. on Twitter: BolducANE2014

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