Mercedes boss has admitted that technology firms like Google and Apple are more capable of building their own cars than he had previously assumed. The revelation came while on a trip to Silicon Valley to have "concrete talks" with the companies.
Dieter Zetsche, who is head of Mercedes and chief executive of parent company Daimler, believes Google and Apple have made more progress on their respective car projects than Daimler had realised. Zetsche also found the tech firms have more respect for the achievements of the car industry than he and his colleagues had previously thought.
"Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed. At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought," Zetsche told German weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
Zetsche has visited California and its Silicon Valley hub of technology companies with a handful of senior Daimler managers to meet with around 70 companies, the publication said without naming them. As well as technology giants like Google, Apple and Facebook, California is also home to Tesla, Uber and Twitter, while a number of car companies have electric and autonomous research facilities in the state.
"There were concrete talks," Reuters reports Zetsche as saying. "I will not say anything about the content. It was not just about the fact that there is an innovative spirit in the Valley. We know that already. We wanted to see what drives it, and all the things that can be created from it." Daimler used the trip to meet with both major tech companies and smaller startups.
Google has been openly developing driverless car technology for several years, and reports publicly every month on the progress of its fleet of autonomous vehicles, which combined cover more than 10,000 autonomous miles every week.
Apple is being more secretive. The iPhone maker is widely understood to be working on an electric car with self-driving capabilities, but is yet to officially announce the work, known internally as 'Project Titan'.
News of Zetsche's trip came in the same week as a report that Steve Zadesky, head of Apple's car project, has left the company after 16 years for personal reasons. It is also claimed Project Titan is struggling to make progress because the team working on it have failed to come up with any clear and achievable goals.
Separately, Zetsche told the weekly paper than Germany's KBA vehicle authority spent three days testing a range of Mercedes and Smart cars to see if they were cheating emissions tests, like those of the VW group. "To my knowledge, no conspicuous emissions levels were found," the Daimler boss said.