BMW, Intel and computer vision firm Mobileye have signed a deal to develop autonomous vehicles. The three firms will collaborate on the systems needed to make a car that can navigate without any help from a human driver. BMW said it hoped the collaboration would mean it could put robot cars into production by 2021.
Plugged in Car
BMW said the trio would develop computer and sensor systems that gradually reduce the part humans play in driving a car. Ultimately, it said, it hoped to produce vehicles that could operate entirely autonomously without any people onboard.
“Achieving this would make it possible for fleets of unmanned vehicles to operate safely. This could spur the creation of novel ride-sharing services in urban areas. Or it may lead to the creation of long-distance delivery services that employ robot-driven trucks,” BMW said.
“Fully” is the key word in BMW’s news today. Production vehicles today already offer various forms of partial automation like dynamic cruise control and lane keep, and more advanced systems like Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise are either in production or near it. But a fully self-driving car — something akin to the Google car — is an entirely different level of capability and complexity where you simply summon your vehicle, get in, and let it take you wherever you want to go without needing to intervene or pay attention.
Sophisticated cruise control systems already enable “hands off” driving. The Cameras and computers allow cars to automatically brake, steer and accelerate in traffic at low speeds. But drivers should stay in control.
Different Levels of Future Automation
Now, the Trio will develop cars with even higher levels of automation described as “eyes off,” “mind off,” and “driver off“. This requires much more computing power and software know-how, forcing traditional car-makers to collaborate more closely with technology specialists.
The autonomous car that emerges from the partnership would be likely to be electric and called the iNext. Other vehicles in the i-range include the i8 hybrid and the i3 all-electric vehicle.
The iNext should reach level 3 to level 5 of automated driving. The three companies will then share this platform with other car manufacturers. With an open strategy, these companies could create a significant revenue stream through licensing deals and more.
BMW CEO Harald Krueger said,”We believe today the technologies are not ready for series production”, explaining the alliance had not forecast that until 2021.
“For the BMW group, safety comes first,” he added.