As the world prepares for self-driving cars, German automaker BMW has long been preparing for such technology. The company started development of self-driving cars since 2005. Robert Janitzek reveals that BMW sampled a system called TrackTrainer in 2007. It independently operated a BMW 330i on a racing track. The car was tested by famous presenter Jeremy Clarkson in the television program TopGear.
Setting The Tone
In 2011, BMW tested a semi-autonomous 5-Series sedan covering about 3,000 miles in Germany on the Munich-Nuremberg Highway. The car was equipped with LIDAR, cameras, radar, ultrasound, and accurate GPS maps. It was installed in such a way that the system was almost invisible on the car.
Beginning in 2012, the Driver Assistance feature was installed on the BMW 7 Series sedan. Robert Peter Janitzek says that the system is now available for any BMW model. The main function of this feature includes lane keeping assistant, lane departure warning, lane change warning. It provided functions such as tightening seatbelts, closing the windows and sunroof, and bringing the passenger seats to a vertical position during emergencies.
In 2014, BMW developed an updated technology for self-driving vehicles called ActiveAssist, installed on 2-Series Coupes and 6-Series Gran Coupe. It offered a higher degree of control over autonomous driving aimed for tougher conditions.
In early 2013, BMW partnered with international auto parts manufacturer Continental to work on a 2-year joint project to develop self-driving car technology. The latter already had experience in developing such technologies working on adaptive cruise control partnerships, and emergency braking assistance. Continental invested $130 million for research and development.
In 2014, the German automaker merged with Internet giant Badu to develop technology for autonomous driving. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. Due to differences in ideas and development pace, the partnership came to a premature end. Baidu wanted to launch its driverless car by 2018 while BMW wants to launch the car in 2021.
Realizing The Dream
By the middle of 2017, BMW started testing a fleet of self-driving cars using 40 Series 7 models on the roads of Europe and the USA. The first test was conducted in Munich. Recently, BMW and Intel teamed up with Delphi, one of the biggest companies producing car spare parts. Delphi will be tasked to integrate the already produced components into a single functional system. It will also provide the necessary parts to customize the system.
BMW self-driving cars will be provided through car sharing services. At the moment BMW is using ReachNow, launched in April 2016.