Articles, Connected Car, Vehicle Automation

BMW’s engagement for autonomous driving

Car manufacturer BMW wants to offer autonomous driving by 2021 and is thereby focusing on cooperation and testing. Last year BMW already presented their vision of autonomous driving with iNEXT 100 – They even included a system for motorcycles that applies self-stabilization and can take over vehicle control upon request. For the realization of the vision iNEXT 100, the Munichs have teamed up with high-level partners with wide experience in the field of autonomous driving. Ranked among this coalition, with which the technology in 2021 plans to be ready for series production, are two companies: Mobileye and Intel.

Strategic partnerships with Mobileye and Intel

The Israeli company Mobileye is playing a particularly important role. Not only does it produce sensors, but it also brings its EyeQ5 computing unit into the cooperation. Previously Mobileye supplied Tesla Motors with its technology – the cooperation ended after a fatal crash of a Tesla driver moving on autopilot. During the preceding year BMW lost an important partner, too: Baidu. According to rumors their visions about future mobility were too wide apart, which eventually was the reason for the split.

Further hardware is provided by Intel, who also wants support the development of AI to contribute to the cooperation. For the use of AI, BMW is already working with IBM Watson, having sent their employees to IBM headquarters in Munich. Additionally the company concluded cooperations with other German companies for the Cyber Valley in Baden-Württemberg, where efforts for AI development are bundled.

Data processing tasks could also be managed by HERE. The mapping data provider’s database contains sensory data from several car brands and is partially owned by the BMW Group (one third). HERE was bought by the three major German car manufacturers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and has announced a number of collaborations at this year’s CES, including Mobileye and Intel.

Autonomous vehicles to be tested on the road

In order to focus on R&D regarding autonomous driving, BMW decided to set up a research center in the greater Munich area. The center in Unterschleissheim, north of the Bavarian capital, will become fully operational in July 2017.

BMW will equip a fleet of 40 vehicles to test the technology. The BMW 7 Series will be on public display in Munich. The city will be part of the digital testing area for automated and connected driving set up in selected German cities and on motorways. The digital test field “Autobahn” will be on the A9 in Bavaria, where many manufacturers are going to test their technology. Recently the BMW project “Providentia” received funding to improve sensor systems. Moreover BMW wants to test drive their autonomous vehicles in whole Europe and the US.

The company has already been testing autonomous driving for some time in the district of Garching in Munich. However the first inner city tests are going to start this summer. The autonomous cars will be monitored by a mandatory passenger and accompanied by other vehicles.

And what happens inside the vehicle?

Another part of the vision iNEXT 100 focuses on interior design and use of time during the journey. With BMW ConnectedDrive, operated intuitively by speech and gesture control, passengers can stay connected with warnings and points of interest. For the speech control system BMW cooperates with Microsoft using Cortana.

Together with many other industry participants, BMW is also a member of the 5GAA (5G Automotive Association), which is committed to the establishment of the new LTE Link Standard 5G. In cooperation with the telecommunication provider from South Korea, SK Telecom, BMW managed to provide a transmission speed of about 20 GB per second. This allows the transmission of video formats in 4K quality. However, only two vehicles were part of the experiment, which does not reflect realistic conditions.

Last November BMW spend a lot of money to browse Silicon Valley for startups with the potential to boost the development of autonomous cars as the young companies’ innovation strength is very much in demand. In this context the budget of the in-house investment company, BMW i Ventures, was boosted to about 500 million EUR.

About the author:

David Fluhr is journalist and owner of the digital magazine “Autonomes Fahren & Co”. He is reporting regularly about trends and technologies in the fields Autonomous Driving, HMI, Telematics and Robotics. Link to his site:

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