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Mercedes thinks a premium driverless taxi service would be a good idea

Mercedes-Benz is considering developing its own line of autonomous, on-demand cars. According to a report from Reuters, the German automaker says it can see a potential market in customers who don't want to own a vehicle, but are still interested in high-end and premium services. "This is a concrete development goal of ours," Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Mercedes' parent company Daimler, said at the Frankfurt auto show.

Any working product in this area is a long way off, but Zetsche said he could see the service feeding into Daimler's car2go business, a "free-floating car sharing provider" that lets customers quickly hire vehicles left dotted around cities. "It would be even more convenient if the car came to you autonomously," Zetsche told the news agency. "And it would be extremely practical if the car2go appeared without needing to be prompted, once my appointment in the calendar had come to an end."

Daimler and Mercedes have already built self-driving cars and trucks

Daimler also owns taxi hire app MyTaxi, and, as part of an industry consortium including Audi and BMW, this year bought Nokia's Here maps unit for $3 billion. "I think you don't need too much imagination to see that by combining these strengths, attractive business models are possible in future," Zetsche told Reuters. The company has also already built its own self-driving cars and self-driving trucks, although only prototypes in both cases.

If the German automaker does decide to enter the autonomous taxi market at some point in the future, it will likely face stiff competition from Uber, which launched its own self-driving car project in February this year and has since been busy mining universities and robotics labs for talent. A wide array of tech and car companies — including Google, BMW, and Chinese search giant Baidu — are also developing their own autonomous vehicles. However, at the moment, the technology is speeding ahead of regulation. Some industry consultants have suggested 2025 as a possible date for self-driving cars to hit the road, but even this may prove ambitious.

Verge Video: Riding in the Mercedes-Benz F 015