February 28, 2019 – Daimler and BMW, Germany’s premier motor vehicle manufacturers, announced they are partnering to develop next-generation vehicle automation for self-driving cars. The memorandum of understanding that representatives of the two vehicle manufacturers signed covers development of self-driving vehicles the companies plan to introduce in the mid-2020s. Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s head of development, said that combining the key expertise of both companies will boost their innovative strength and speed up the spread of this technology.
Focus on Parking and Highway Driving
Autonomous driving is measured on a scale of Levels from 0 to 5 (see what do Levels mean?). In short, zero means no automation and 5 means a totally automated driving experience with no human attention required. At Level 2, the driver must be available to take over at any time, such as with the Audi Traffic Jam Pilot or Tesla’s Autopilot. At Level 4, the human driver in a privately owned car might drive autonomous cars on surface streets and then let the vehicle take over on the highway.
The Daimler-BMW relationship is focusing on developing higher levels of automation, such as Level 3/4 capabilities for vehicles driving on the highway and for parking activities. Indications are that the companies seek to create affordable driver assistance systems they can incorporate into vehicles for consumers. Examples of uses for this new technology would include automated highway driving where there are no cyclists or pedestrians, and vehicle self-parking functions.
Continuing Joint Ventures and Partnerships
International, particularly German automakers have been joining forces with each other and technology companies in recent years to expand their development horizons. Creating such joint ventures and strategic cooperation benefits both parties and helps in cost-sharing.
For example, Volkswagen and Ford are expected to form a partnership soon as General Motors has aggressively been developing self-driving technology and been in talks with Honda.
Daimler AG is also progressing in a partnership with Bosch. The two are developing autonomous vehicles and plan to start a pilot program ride-hailing service in urban areas such as San Jose, California, later in 2019, potentially foreshadowing competition for Uber.
A partnership between BMW AG, Intel, and Mobileye in 2016 that added Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop AD platforms, both for the automakers and other customers, is expected to launch in 2021.
Other Players and Mobility Offerings
Tesla famously continues to push forward with its own aggressive self-driving technology by developing sophisticated AI hardware and software that’s built into all it’s currently sold vehicles. It has stated in the past that these vehicles could potentially become part of a car-sharing service where owners ‘rent’ out their cars to others when not in use. Elon Musk recently said in an interview that he’s open to allowing other manufacturers to use the Tesla Autopilot technology, as long as it doesn’t require significant modifications or Tesla engineering resources.
Finally, Waymo, arguably the furthest along in having tested self-driving cars, continues with its long-standing Fiat Chrysler partnership and is rumored to be in talks with the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance.
Today’s Cars with Autopilot
While many manufacturers are just getting started, see which cars with autopilot you can buy today.