Mar 18, 2016 ยท 1 minute

A curious story tucked away inside Germany’s Manager Magazin: Uber has placed an order for 100,000 Mercedes S-Class cars. 

Citing sources close to Daimler and Uber, Manager reports that the order likely involves self-driving cars and is worth somewhere in the region of $11bn, which would be the largest order in Daimler's history. The magazine add that the cars will not be available until at least 2020. 

Electrek has more analysis, suggesting that the deal came after Uber was unable to convince Tesla to sell it enough of its own self-driving cars. Specifically, after Elon Musk declined to return Travis Kalanick’s call.

Mercedes currently doesn’t have a fully self-driving car, but it does offer several assisted driving features under its “Drive Pilot”, which is similar to Tesla’s Autopilot program.

Another angle to the story that isn’t being widely reported is that the $11bn order with a German car manufacturer comes at a time when Uber is still largely banned within Germany.

The company’s usual playbook of bursting into a new market in the hope that regulators will be ultimately forced to work with them has failed in much of Europe. France, Germany and Spain have all been openly hostile to the company and, outside of the UK, Uber has faced repeated bans, particularly over its ridesharing service (as opposed to its licensed limo offering.) Last year, two senior Uber executives in France were arrested for running an illegal taxi service.

Uber is lobbying hard inside the EU to have laws changed to allow it to operate freely in major European markets. A promise to spend $11bn with a German car manufacturer, especially when that order will replace unlicensed drivers with robots, will certainly help smooth the road.