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BMW well on the way to a fully-autonomous production car

Relaxnews (AFP) logoRelaxnews (AFP) 5/01/2017
Ford test drive: Stock image of someone test driving a car © BBC Stock image of someone test driving a car

A fleet of autonomous BMWs could be heading your way. The German luxury carmaker on Wednesday confirmed that 40 self-driving cars, co-developed with Intel and Mobileye, are taking to US and European roads this year.

"Making autonomous driving a reality for our customers is the shared ambition behind our cooperation with Intel and Mobileye," stated Klaus Fröhlich, BMW's head of development at a joint press conference at CES in Las Vegas. "This partnership has all of the skills and talent necessary to overcome the enormous technological challenges ahead and commercialize self-driving vehicles."

When the partnership was announced in July 2016, the companies set themselves a hugely ambitious target of having not just an autonomous car, but an autonomous car platform that could be used by other companies, ready to go by decade's end.

Yet just six months in, it appears that the project is on track. "We have made very good progress in designing a state-of-the-art solution for autonomous driving on both highways and in urban areas. The solution has been defined in a scalable manner to allow affiliate automakers to meet their unique needs," said Mobileye Chairman, Prof Amnon Shashua.

It also means the iNext, BMW's fully self-driving car is also on schedule for its 2021 launch. "This year our fleet of vehicles will already test this joint technology globally under real traffic conditions. This is a significant step towards the introduction of the BMW iNext," said Fröhlich.

According to Intel, the main obstacle that has been slowing down the development of autonomous vehicle technology is the huge initial costs involved. "From an industry perspective, we are already seeing savings and speed in development by sharing development costs and in pooling resources to develop a complete autonomous platform," said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

As well as a progress report, Intel confirmed at CES that it is taking a 15% stake in HERE. 

HERE offers global mapping and localization services for vehicles and is currently owned by Audi, Daimler and BMW. With Intel on board the owners plan to develop high-definition maps that are detailed enough for autonomous driving.

"A real-time, self-healing and high-definition representation of the physical world is critical for autonomous driving, and achieving this will require significantly more powerful and capable in-vehicle compute platforms," said Edzard Overbeek, HERE CEO. "As a premier silicon provider, Intel can help accelerate HERE's ambitions in this area by supporting the creation of a universal, always up-to-date digital location platform that spans the vehicle, the cloud and everything else connected."

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