raditional bitter rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s parent، Daimler، are teaming up to accelerate their self-driving vehicle technology.
Despite both companies repeatedly insisting their autonomous-vehicle programs are on track، they’ve announced a long-term partnership to put the shared technology into production cars by 2025.
The push towards self-driving cars has seen breakthroughs and disappointments from ‘Benz and BMW، and both have complained that European road rules have been holding them back.
The new partnership will focus on all driver-assistance systems، automated parking and self-driving on highways، using the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) levels 3 and 4 as their targets.
Significantly، neither party has announced full self-driving، or level 5، as a production target، which Mercedes-Benz has privately admitted may not be a production reality until 2030 or even 2040.
Also significant is that the partnership omits fellow German premium brand Audi، which paired up with BMW and Daimler in 2015 to buy the HERE digital mapping service off Nokia.
Audi has already claimed a lead over its foes in autonomous driving، with its A8 purportedly assuming the title of the first Level 3 car into production، though the technology isn’t allowed to be switched on in most countries because the legislation lags behind.
The cooperation between BMW and Daimler follows a combined €1 billion investment on urban mobility project last week: an umbrella operation aimed at taking on Uber and Lyft and covers electric charging، car sharing، ride hailing an even paperless parking systems.
"Long-term partnerships within a flexible، scalable، non-exclusive platform are fundamental to advancing the industrialisation of autonomous driving،” BMW’s board member for development، Klaus Fröhlich، said.
"Combining the key expertise of our two companies will boost our innovative strength and speed up the spread of this technology."
BMW had already teamed up to build a research group with Intel، MobilEye and the HERE digital mapping system it part owns، and it has also been joined by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Both carmakers are planning an open platform and have also declared their willingness to investigate working together on full Level 5 self-driving together.
"Autonomous driving is one of the most revolutionary trends for us at the moment، and the entire Daimler Group is working very hard on it،” Daimler’s development board member Ola Källenius said.
"Working with the right partners، we want to make significant advances in enhancing the performance of this technology and bring it safely on the road."
Both companies have shown clear signs of accelerating self-driving tech، with BMW even opening an open-source research campus last year.
On top of that، the partnership is regarded as the centerpiece of BMW’s hopes to morph into a tech company، using a 23،000 square metre Autonomous Driving Campus that houses 1000 connectivity and autonomous-driving developers in one location outside Munich.
The Unterschleißheim site will eventually host 1800 developers، with BMW planning to ramp up its technology as the 2021 launch of the Level 4-capable i-Next electric car approaches.
"Welcome to the new Silicon Valley here in Bavaria،” the BMW’s Group’s senior vice-president for mobility، Elmar Frickenstein، said at the opening.
"For us، autonomous vehicles (AV) is one of the most important challenges in the auto industry. It’s about bringing a completely new system to the street.
"We tackled extreme challenges – challenges we have never faced in the automotive industry. It’s open plan with a large-scale scrums and we need the ability to cooperate with the best technology partners."
BMW still has plans to recruit more IT specialists، software developers، artificial intelligence researchers، machine learning boffins and data analysts to fill up the campus.
"We need the best software developers in the world، especially people who are experts in Artificial Intelligence،” BMW’s board member for development Klaus Fröhlich said.
"We need further generations of chip development. We need to identify the weak spots and develop a safe process and a car that will always work with all customers in all conditions.
"At the moment، with the quality and ability of the sensors and the computer processing speed and performance، there is no possibility to have highly autonomous cars without accidents،” he said.