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Daimler CEO says Apple, other Silicon Valley firms 'can do more' than anticipated in cars

Tesla's Model S, which already has some self-piloting functions.

Silicon Valley tech companies are doing better than anticipated in the automotive realm, said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche after he and other company executives concluded talks with dozens of firms in the region.

"Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed. At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought," Zetsche told Germany's Welt am Sonntag, according to Reuters. The Daimler team met with roughly 70 companies in all.

"There were concrete talks. I will not say anything about the content," Zetsche continued. "It was not just about the fact that there is an innovative spirit in the Valley. We know that already. We wanted to see what drives it, and all the things that can be created from it."

Though the CEO didn't mention any of the visited companies by name, one of them may have been Apple. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has referred to Apple's electric car project as an "open secret," and while Apple is unlikely to have divulged many details, in the case of a company like Daimler it could be willing to acknowledge its interest or discuss potential partnerships.

Apple, Google, Tesla, and several traditional carmakers are all believed to be working on self-driving cars, though the first consumer models are likely several years away. Apple's for instance may not hit roads until 2019 or 2020, and even then the company may or may not decide to leave self-driving systems for later.