BMW, a company that prides itself on building “the ultimate driving machine,” plans to start producing fully autonomous vehicles by 2021 for ridesharing programs. Think of it as Uber for people who don’t like people.
This is a surprising move, given that the company has said essentially nothing about technology that everyone from Google to General Motors to Tesla is racing to develop. And it marks a radical departure from the slow-and-steady approach of the mainstream automakers, who see the technology rolling out slowly over the next two decades.
Still, ze Germans see themselves surging ahead by relying upon help from Intel and Mobileye, an Israeli firm that dominates the market for the cameras that are key to active safety features like collision warning and lane-keeping. The trio aims to standardize self-driving technology. “It is the only way to make this crucial next step a reality,” Ziv Aviram, co-founder and CEO of Mobileye, said in a statement.
Friday’s announcement was long on promises and short on details. There’s no word on where BMW will deploy the cars, which ridesharing platform it will work with, or what role Intel plays in the partnership. And BMW is well behind the competition, which is led by Google. The company’s fleet of two dozen or so fully autonomous vehicles logs 10,000 to 15,000 miles each week and has covered 1.3 million miles in all.