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BMW expects fully autonomous driving by 2021

Progression from "hands off" to "eyes off" to "mind off" to "driver off"

Published: July 3, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: July 7, 2016, 3:05 PM

BMW autonomous driving cockpit

BMW is teaming up with mobility and technology partners to bring safe and reliable autonomous vehicle solutions to the mass market by 2021.

The Bavarian company has joined forces with computer tech giant Intel and Mobileye, and Israeli tech company specializing vision-based advanced driver assistance systems, to align the industry on a standards-based platform that will quickly bring autonomous vehicles to market, once it opens up.

“Highly autonomous cars and everything they connect to will require powerful and reliable electronic brains to make them smart enough to navigate traffic and avoid accidents,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “This partnership between BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye will help us to quickly deliver on our vision to reinvent the driving experience. We bring a broad set of in-vehicle and cloud computing, connectivity, safety and security, and machine-learning assets to this collaboration enabling a truly end to end solution.”

Although all three share a vision of a changing lives and societies for the better, they also realize the complexities of autonomous driving need to be made less so by quickly responding to rapidly changing technologies that could bring about as much harm as good. The aim of their collaboration is to create an open platform where all interested parties can contribute to solutions, from door-locking to data centres, and benefit from collaboration.

BMW is contributing its iNEXT model, which has been targeted as the foundation for the marque’s autonomous driving research and strategy for its next generation of vehicles to be able to operate autonomously in highway and urban settings.

The company is planning its rollout in several phases, developing technology to allow drivers to not only have hands off vehicle control, but then also the “eyes off” level of control en route to the penultimate goal of “mind off” the driving task, in order to transform in-car time into leisure or work time. The ultimate goal for autonomous driving is, of course, “driver off,” where cars can chauffeur occupants or cargo to their desired destinations with no need for a physical driver.

The open platform for the various levels of control (or lack thereof, really) will be made available to other vehicle vendors and even other industries would could benefit not only from autonomous driving technologies but intuitive technology as a whole.

“The processing of sensing, like our capabilities to understand the driving scene through a single camera already, will be deployed on Mobileye’s latest system-on-chip, the EyeQ5, and the collaborative development of fusion algorithms will be deployed on Intel computing platforms,” said Mobileye Co-Founder, Chairman and CTO Professor Amnon Shashua. “In addition, Mobileye Road Experience Management (REM) technology will provide real-time precise localization and model the driving scene to essentially support fully autonomous driving.”

BMW envisions a world of self-driving fleets by 2021, creating the opportunities for entirely new business models.

“Following our investment in high definition live map technology at HERE, the combined expertise of Intel, Mobileye and the BMW Group will deliver the next core building block to bring fully automated driving technology to the street,” concluded Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “We have already showcased such groundbreaking solutions in our VISION NEXT 100 vehicle concepts. With this technological leap forward, we are offering our customers a whole new level of sheer driving pleasure whilst pioneering new concepts for premium mobility.”

In the near term, the three partners plan to demonstrate a highly-automated driving vehicle by the end of the year, with extended fleet and autonomous driving tests performed through 2017.