BMW, Intel, Mobileye pledge self-driving fleet by end 2017

The future is right around the corner, as partners join forces to convert recent significant advancements into fully autonomous driving

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

BMW, Intel, Mobileye announce cooperation for driverless car, July 2016 (Courtesy)
BMW, Intel, Mobileye announce cooperation for driverless car, July 2016 (Courtesy)

BMW Group, Intel and Israel’s Mobileye said Wednesday that a fleet of about 40 autonomous BMW cars will be on the roads by the second half of 2017.

The announcement, made at a joint press conference at CES 2017, the consumer and electronics trade show that is taking place this week in Las Vegas, is testament to the “significant advancements” made by the three companies towards fully autonomous driving, the companies said.

The BMW 7 Series will employ “cutting-edge” Intel and Mobileye technologies during global trials starting in the U.S. and Europe, the companies said.

BMW, Intel and Mobileye announced their partnership in July last year, and the companies have since developed what they define a “scalable architecture” for autonomous driving that can be also used by other carmakers for their own brands. This offering to other manufacturers will range from individual integrated modules to complete end-to-end solutions, the companies said in a statement.

“Making autonomous driving a reality for our customers is the shared ambition behind our cooperation with Intel and Mobileye,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG for Development. “We are already thinking in terms of scalability and welcome other companies — manufacturers, suppliers or technology companies — to participate and contribute to our autonomous platform.”

This year, a BMW fleet of vehicles will already test this joint technology globally under real traffic conditions, he said, adding that this is a significant step towards the introduction of the BMW iNEXT in 2021, which will be the BMW Group’s first fully autonomous vehicle.

As part of the partnership, the BMW Group will be responsible for driving control and dynamics, evaluation of overall functional safety of the cars; Intel brings to the partnership the high performance computing elements that span from the vehicle to the data center; while Mobileye contributes its high-performance computer vision processors.

Mobileye will further collaborate with the BMW Group to develop additional sensors, as well as establishing driving policies and using Mobileye’s reinforcement learning algorithms, to provide the vehicles with the artificial intelligence required to safely negotiate complex driving situations, the companies said.

Mobileye and its UK based partner Delphi Automotive Plc. said last month they would hold the “most complex automated drive ever publicly demonstrated on an urban and highway” route in Las Vegas this week.

There are some 30 corporate groups globally, ranging from the automotive industry to leading technology brands — including Google, Daimler and General Motors — that are chasing the dream of driverless cars by setting up research and development activities, and buying or teaming up with tech companies, according to CB Insights, a New York-based data company. And the race is on among them for who will be able to put the first driverless car on the road.

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