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BMW forges alliance to build fully autonomous car by 2021

BMW's autonomous car is scheduled to arrive in 2021. (Photo: BMW)

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Angelo Rychel
Angelo Rychel
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The German carmaker teams up with Intel and Mobileye to develop a Level 5 driverless vehicle.

The timing could have been more fortunate. As BMW announced an important new strategic alliance last Friday, news of the fatal Tesla accident in Autopilot mode was dominating the headlines. Despite this possible setback for automated driving, the German carmaker sought to convey a spirit of optimism for its huge announcement: BMW will partner with U.S. chip maker Intel and Israeli tech company Mobileye to develop a fully autonomous vehicle by 2021. A quite ambitious target compared to many industry forecasts, expecting such vehicles not before 2025.

Several cars available today are capable of so-called Level 2 automation: they can take over steering and acceleration in specific use cases. But the driver is still required to constantly monitor the drive. BMW’s partnership is now aiming for Level 5 automation: a car that drives autonomously with no driver required at all. BMW describes these higher levels of automation as "eyes off," "mind off," and "driver off", according to a Reuters article. To provide the computing power and software know-how that is necessary for such an elaborated system, BMW is collaborating with its technology allies.

Open platforms as a trend

While Intel will supply microprocessors, Israeli company Mobileye will contribute its Road Experience Management technology which provides highly precise real-time mapping data. The alliance members said their new platform would be open and made available to multiple carmakers. Creating common technology standards would help all manufacturers update their vehicles faster, Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said. "That will be critical for advancing the safety aspects of this."

When asked about the tragic Tesla crash, BMW CEO Harald Krueger said: "The accident is very sad .... We believe today the technologies are not ready for series production.” While BMW is eying 2021 to enter series production, a prototype is supposed to be released in the near future.

Read the full Reuters article here.

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Angelo Rychel
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