The first time I heard of the “automation” of robotic cars, I was just about ready to get rid of my old one.
But then, just as I was about to leave the house, a robotic car came into view.
The robot was not a regular electric vehicle.
It was a robotic version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and it was in Australia.
“This is really cool,” the owner of the car, who asked not to be named, told me.
“You’re not even going to see it on the road,” he said.
“It’s just going to be a regular car that drives on the motorway.”
“I’ve been working on this project for about two years, and this is one of the first cars that I’ve actually built,” the driver of the E-class, Daniel, said.
Daniel, the E.C.R. (Electric Ride-R) car, in Melbourne, Australia.
The E-classes first vehicle was a hybrid, and the concept of automated driving, and in particular, autonomous driving, has been around for decades.
The idea behind autonomous driving is that the driverless vehicle would be able to take over the driving functions and act as a driverless taxi, with a human on board.
In theory, that means that the car would not be driving, but simply directing the driver.
“But in practice, it’s not really feasible,” Daniel said.
The first car to be built with the concept was the Renault E-Sport, introduced in 2010, but it was never truly popular with the public.
“When I first started, I got some pretty bad press for the car,” Daniel continued.
“The press was like, ‘You’re going to change everything you know about car safety,'” he said, referring to the fact that the ESport had a rather heavy, long wheelbase, and was quite wide.
“So when people started to look at it more closely, they found out it was really, really, very unsafe.”
In the end, Daniel said, “there were a lot of people who were really happy with it.”
“It had a really good safety record, but I think the media got too wrapped up in the hype of it and didn’t really take it seriously,” he added.
The second car, a BMW E-Drive, was unveiled in 2014, but its sales numbers were less than positive.
“People thought it was just another Mercedes-AMG,” Daniel explained.
“I mean, it was a very good car,” he continued.
In the years since, the BMW EDrive has been replaced by a more reliable Mercedes-Benzes.
But Daniel still had faith in the concept.
“We’ve been talking to the manufacturers, and they’re all very happy with the EDrive,” he told me, “and we’re looking forward to working with them on a production model.”
Daniel has a good track record.
He’s built more than 60 E-Strokes and he has an impressive reputation for building robots.
He was one of two founders of robotics firm M3, which was acquired by Alphabet in 2016.
“For me, it just seemed to be the right time,” he explained.
I asked Daniel about the ECDrive, and he told us that the company is looking at various concepts for autonomous driving.
“What we want to do is do a robot that can drive on the roads, but is really smart,” he revealed.
“And this is a very different approach to what we did with the Mercedes Benz E-Series,” he noted.
Daniel said that the first robot that he has built for autonomous operation was an electric skateboard.
“That was actually the very first robot we built,” he recalled.
“A very, very, clever robot.”
“We were looking at whether or not it was possible to make a robot to drive on that sort of surface,” Daniel added.
“How would you move, how would you climb?
And the answer was, that’s a very complicated area that we have no experience in.”
Daniel said the team was looking at many different approaches, from autonomous driving to fully autonomous driving with a “machine driver”.
“But this is the one that’s really, truly autonomous,” he concluded.
I was very curious to learn more about the car’s concept, and so I visited Daniel at the company’s Melbourne headquarters.
“Have you seen this thing?”
I asked him.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Can you tell me what it’s made of?”
I was curious about the design of the electric skateboarding robot, and I was especially interested to learn about Daniel’s vision for the future of robotic driving.
I spoke to Daniel and we started talking about the future.
“If you have a vision of the future, you can be a robot,” Daniel told me confidently.
“There are people who want to be robots.
And if you think about what it would take for humans to be replaced, we don