Eric Larsen heads research in society and technology at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development in Sunnyvale, Calif. Mr. Larsen, 53, who joined the carmaker in 1995, wrote his thesis for a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Washington on the failure of innovation in the Communist world. Now he thinks about how Mercedes can sustain innovation as technology transforms luxury cars.
Mercedes has taken steps toward robotic cars, with built-in computers and sensors that assist human drivers with things like navigation, route planning and “anticipatory driving,” which looks at the topography of the road ahead to improve the battery performance in hybrid vehicles. The company has also tested driverless trucks on Germany’s autobahns. Mr. Larsen recently talked about his work in an interview, which was condensed and edited.
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