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Hands back on the wheel! Mercedes-Benz working to ease expectations on autonomous cars

The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class pushes the envelope for semi-autonomy, but it can't drive itself.

Mercedes-Benz is working to temper expectations around autonomous cars, with the company stating it is focusing on autonomous trucks under the Daimler umbrella as a priority.

Ola Kallenius, Daimler and Mercedes-Benz chairman of the board of management, told media in a telephone press conference call this week that the company has changed its immediate approach towards self-driving cars, instead aiming for autonomous 'hub-to-hub' transport.

"With regard to full autonomy, we switched the priority - in terms of deployment of the technology - and have moved trucks ahead of cars," said Mr Kallenius.

"Why did we do that? Because we believe this is the area, in a hub-to-hub case, where we think that the business case looks most attractive first. It is technically a very sophisticated problem to solve," he said.

Mr Kallenius went on to explain that the company's previous plans to launch fully autonomous electric Mercedes cars, including a fleet to be used as 'robo-taxis', has since pushed back. He's previously called the move a "reality check", stating that the problem is more complex than it first appears.

"Mass deployment of robo-taxis - yes, we believe that is moving on the timeline, a little bit to the right for the industry, and for us as well, and we will focus on trucks first.

"That doesn't mean that we're giving up the effort on passenger cars. We will continue to invest in that, but we will deploy our resources in such a way that we can generate revenue at the earliest possible time," he said.

"The first pillar [in Mercedes-Benz autonomous future] is taking the very sophisticated driving assistance systems - which, actually some decades ago, we were the ones to invent in the first place - and gradually increasing the capability of those. Eventually, going for Level 3 capability with our driving assistance systems.

"Investment in that is ramping up, it is robust - and we're working with different partners - also, last year, we announced that we will coordinate activities with BMW in this area as well," he said.

The just-revealed Mercedes-Benz E-Class facelift takes the brand's semi-autonomous tech to a higher level, with a new autonomous parking system debuting, while highway driving is also set to be easier to hand over to the car to take control of in some instances.