As the race to get a fully-autonomous car on the road continues, BMW is firmly establishing its position as one of the first manufacturers to set a commercial production date. The iNext, BMW’s self-driving sedan, would bring automated vehicles into production by 2021 following the announcement of a unique partnership between BMW, Intel and computer vision and sensor company, Mobileye.
The all-electric flagship sedan will form the foundation of BMW’s autonomous driving strategy; to develop future-proof solutions allowing drivers to disconnect from the driving experience behind the wheel. This process involves the successful development of technology that can push through the autonomous driving levels; from Level 0 all the way to Level 5:
- Level 0 – driver controls the entire vehicle; steering, brakes, throttle, power.
- Level 1 – semi-autonomous functionality leaves most functions under driver-control whilst some functions are automated.
- Level 2 – vehicle controls at least 2 functions, allowing the driver to disengage from vehicular control.
- Level 3 – safety-critical functions are controlled by the vehicle under certain traffic and environmental conditions.
- Level 4 – vehicle is fully autonomous, performing all safety-critical functions for an entire trip.
- Level 5 – vehicle is fully autonomous with no option for human control.
Whilst BMW is providing the automotive framework for the vehicle, Intel will be supplying processors that are capable of handling the constant streams of information that the car will rely on. The third partner, Mobileye, is an Israeli company that develops OEM driver assistance systems that can detect road conditions, vehicles, pedestrians and signs. Their Road Experience Management technology can map the environment around the car to support fully autonomous driving, similar to their experience working with Tesla’s AutoPilot system.
The trio of industry-leaders are hoping to make road travel safer and easier as they progress towards the goal of completely hands-off driving. The platform will be made available to other car manufacturers to hopefully help bolster the range of autonomously driven vehicles on the road. A Highly Automated Driving (HAD) prototype is expected in the near future.
CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich says “Highly autonomous cars and everything they connect to will require powerful and reliable electronic brains to make them smart enough to navigate traffic and avoid accidents.” “This partnership between BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye will help us to quickly deliver on our vision to reinvent the driving experience. We bring a broad set of in-vehicle and cloud computing, connectivity, safety and security, and machine-learning assets to this collaboration enabling a truly end-to-end solution.”
Will road laws be changed to reflect driver-less operation? When can we expect autonomous vehicles to be interested with smart city infrastructure? How will our roads handle both driven and driver-less vehicles at the same time? Are we really ready to let go of the wheel? These are all questions that will need answering as we progress closer to the time when the cars on our roads aren’t driven by people.