Sound familiar? While many consumers are still contemplating whether self-driving robo-taxis and autonomous cars will occupy the roads during their lifetimes, tech and auto firms are rapidly adapting the technology. Be it General Motors (GM) , Ford (F) , Alphabet's (GOOGL) (GOOG) Waymo or Uber.
When the partnership was announced, it came as little surprise to us at TheStreet. At this year's Detroit Auto Show, we met separately with both Mercedes U.S. CEO Dietmer Exler (Daimler is the parent company) and Nvidia's senior director of automotive Danny Shapiro.
We obviously talked about a lot of different things -- ranging from product mix in the U.S. with Mercedes and how close we are to fully autonomous driving with Nvidia. But one thing that overlapped in our discussions? Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system.
This bad boy is an A.I.-powered system like you've never seen before. It enhances the elevated user experience you get from a company like Mercedes that's powered by a tech-juggernaut like Nvidia. This is not a "puff piece" - but this work of art is not only incredibly functional, it's gorgeous. I wouldn't be surprised to see all high-end infotainment systems migrate in this direction over the next few years.
All of this is to say that with a leading tech company like Nvidia teaming up with "the best or nothing" Mercedes, the two companies working together on autonomous driving didn't come as a shock to us when the news hit the wires earlier this month.
You know when you're somewhere really nice and you're afraid to touch/move/do anything? Sort of like that �� (note: that screen goes all the way across ��) pic.twitter.com/MEpPS0qZcv— Bret Kenwell (@BretKenwell) January 18, 2018
Self-Driving in Silicon Valley Is Just the Start
As it stands, the trio plans to start testing the service in a yet-to-be-determined city near Silicon Valley. Given Mercedes' R&D location in Sunnyvale and Nvidia's Santa Clara headquarters, the location of this service is again no surprise. In the bigger picture, Bosch, Daimler and Nvidia are looking at a larger rollout of the service in "the beginning of the next decade."
However, just this week Daimler announced it will adopt a new corporate structure.
Shareholders will vote on the restructuring almost a year from now, in May 2019 at the next annual meeting. "The new structure involves re-assigning more than 700 subsidiaries in over 60 countries. With this new structure, we will sharpen our focus, increase entrepreneurial responsibility and protect our synergies and economies of scale," said board member and head of finance Bodo Uebber.
However, it's how the company is restructuring that caught our eye. Daimler will break into three groups: Mercedes-Benz AG, Daimler Truck AG and Daimler Mobility AG.
That last one - Daimler Mobility AG - would suggest that Daimler management has much larger plans for its mobility and mobility-as-a-service efforts than just launching a few robo-taxi services across the country in a few years.
Assuming shareholders approve, it will be a while before this restructure takes place. But given Nvidia's role with Mercedes so far, it looks like the company could be on the receiving end of some big autonomous driving orders next decade. If Mercedes makes as big of a push into mobility, autonomous driving and A.I. features as it appears it will, Nvidia is one great way investors can play it. While it's hard to tie a timetable or revenue figure to the potential at this point, keep in mind that Daimler is no small player in the auto business.