BMW plans to release its fully driverless vehicle in less than five years, revealed CEO Harald Krueger. The German firm’s CEO revealed his intentions when speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Munich.
Fully autonomous vehicles: the obvious next step
The CEO told shareholders, “In 2018, we will launch a BMW i8 Roadster. This will be followed in 2021 by the BMW i Next, our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”
Currently, the German company is focused on its i electric car range, and thus, fully autonomous vehicles is a natural extension of this strategy, says Krueger. He added that they already have a well-defined goal of being the number one brand in autonomous driving and that vehicle safety and the security of customers’ personal data are their highest priorities.
Recent reports have suggested that BMW’s parent company Daimler was in talks with Apple about a partnership on autonomous vehicles. But the German firm reportedly turned down the deal as they could not come to a consensus on which of them would keep the data received from customers’ driving.
As of now, it is hard to say how the i Next will look like, but BMW has given some hints about its future car in the form of its recently unveiled Vision Next 100 concept. BMW’s new car is a combination of athletic styling with innovative ideas like the reflective side windows to reduce heat from the sun, closed wheel arches for increased aerodynamics, and the use of recycled carbon for the body.
BMW on the right track
Many high-profile automakers and tech firms are already making efforts in the area of autonomous driving. Volvo has already revealed plans to test driverless cars in London next year, while Toyota recently inaugurated a research institute to work on “fully autonomous” driving.
However, BMW is well-positioned to achieve its goal of a fully driverless vehicle by 2021. In August 2015, the German firm partnered with Mercedes and Audi to acquire Nokia’s HERE Maps in a $3 billion group deal. In December, HERE revealed that it is working to develop high-resolution maps for self-driving cars and plans to use anonymized data obtained from these automakers to improve its real-time maps.
Though BMW already has self-driving technology, Krueger admits there is a lot to be done to make this technology perfect.
“In 2011, a BMW drove on the A9 autobahn from Munich towards Nuremberg – without any driver intervention,” the CEO said, adding that it will take some time to fully develop the technology. Also the legal framework for customers and manufacturers is still to be decided.
Meanwhile, BMW continues to move towards electrification and plans to launch two new models in the next few years. This year the German firm is expected to unveil a revised i3 with an improved range, while in 2018, it is planning a drop-top version of the i8 hybrid sports car.