The BMW Group launched 14 major vehicle types during the 2018 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition with four board members including the chairman Harald Krüger. BMW’s exhibition scale and its importance attached to the show is unprecedented.
The BMW Group has introduced a new forward-looking “NUMBER ONE > NEXT” strategy since 2016 prioritizing the long-term development of ACES which refers to Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared/Services. Meanwhile, autonomous driving takes top priority in the company’s core strategy.
TMTpost took the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with Reinhard Stolle, Vice President of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for BMW Group. As a board member, he leads BMW Group’s major autonomous driving programmes at the present stage.
From technology research to finalized vehicles
Although the self-driving concept has heated up in recent years, for Stolle, it is the very direction in which he and his team have been concentrating their efforts. The BMW Group has long since taken such research into account and put it into practice.
Ten years ago, when the iPhone ushered in an intelligent network era, Stolle introduced the third-party software application to the first BMW operating system. Then, his research experienced the ten-year development of mobile Internet technology, all the while witnessing a transformation of the industry.
Stolle told TMTpost, “We started the research on autonomous driving eight years ago and applied some of the technology to production of vehicles two years ago. We will equip new vehicles with Level 3 autonomous driving technologies in 2021.”
Currently, BMW 5 Series and 7 Series models are equipped with an enhanced driver assistance system designed to function in complicated traffic situations, such as automatically maintaining a safe distance when driving on highways and making turns according to the layout of roads.
The BMW Group always applies the most advanced technologies to the premium vehicles so that its enhanced driver assistance systems will operate among vehicles of other series as well as with technology innovation over time to realize BMW Group’s overall plan for autonomous driving.
The opening of the research and innovation centre for autonomous driving
As an automotive giant possessing a century of technological and cultural capital, the BMW Group is committed to pursuing steady progress in autonomous driving. On this competitive raceway, only those who take the lead in mass production with the most reliable and safest technologies can come out on top to win profit. The BMW Group is against the clock as well.
At the beginning of this month, the BMW Group announced the opening of its autonomous driving campus near the Munich headquarters. The campus, which offers 23,000 square metres of office space to accommodate 1,800 technical staff, is regarded as a milestone in BMW’s autonomous driving strategy.
According to the programme, software development and road tests will take place at the campus in the future. And verified technologies will be gradually adopted to the production of vehicles.
Regarding the development of vehicle types, there are two ongoing, non-overlapping projects at the new centre. One is providing testing vehicles with Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous driving technologies for BMW mobility services, and the other is sparing no effort to develop iNext, the Level 3 all-electric vehicle.
Challenges facing autonomous driving: data, talents and safety
Autonomous driving is not an isolated technology. It relates to a complete solution for the multi-linked automotive industrial chain. In order to achieve its large-scale popularization, not only should technical difficulties be overcome but also there are other challenges to face, including talent recruitment, data application, and policy-making.
Each vehicle will offer mass data in future mobility. Intel estimates that an autonomous vehicle can produce 4TB data every 1.5 hours, so a flood of statistics will challenge automotive manufacturers.
As working at the front-line of research and development, Stolle feels the same. He said “Autonomous driving requires enormous statistics like map data. As a multinational enterprise, BMW has accumulated customer data from various countries and regions. The data helps facilitate the research a lot in the autonomous driving centre.”
Leaping progress in technology brings about unexpected changes of personnel structure for traditional automotive manufacturers. In the past, they preferred mechanical and design talents amid growing demand for skills in artificial intelligence, deep learning, and data analysis at present.
It can be a considerable challenge for technology corporations to attract talented personnel. Considering BMW’s biggest advantage, Stolle said, “For those exceptional talents in areas of computer technology or artificial intelligence, the greatest charm of the century-old BMW is that we have products and platforms which allow our research capabilities to be fully demonstrated. It is very important to attract talent in laboratories into product practice.”
Overall, consumers indeed are mostly concerned about the safety of autonomous driving. On this point, Stolle also shared his point of view. “BMW always regards safety as the number one priority. That’s why we plan out a detailed scheme specifying that we will introduce vehicles with Level 3 autonomous driving technologies in 2021. It’s a continuation and an update on the present driver assistance system. It’s a step-by-step process.”
Considering current progress, not only BMW, but the whole automotive industry is experiencing the learning curve of autonomous driving. In spite of different technical routes, enterprises have the same goal. To be the first to bring reliable products to consumers is the most crucial.
The article is published with authorization from the author @TMTpost, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.
Translated by Zheng Yao. Edited by Yi LIU from TMTpost