German original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) BMW Group and Daimler AG inked a partnership on July 4 for a long-term strategic cooperation in autonomous driving, focusing on jointly developing next-generation technologies for driver assistance systems, automated driving on highways, and self-parking – in essence, an SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle.
Commercial deployment of the technology in passenger car systems is expected to be implemented in 2024, with the two auto manufacturers implementing this separately within their product lines. This massive endeavor will include over 1,200 specialists who will be working together but across different teams.
Strategic partnerships between BMW and Daimler are not new. In February 2019, the automakers announced a joint collaboration within the mobility sector, investing €1 billion across five different verticals within the market. Called the ‘Now Group,’ the venture has created solutions in route navigation, parking services, electric vehicle charging points mapping, on-demand ride-hailing and car-sharing.
As the mobility segment inches towards shared and intelligent mobility, automakers are increasingly consolidating in terms of futuristic mobility solutions, as they understand that progress can be made faster if they cut down on redundant and parallel development of technology. That apart, developing technology like autonomous driving is expensive, with the bills running into several billion dollars.
Though companies do have the impetus to work on it individually, technology like autonomous driving requires several distinctly different skill sets to come together to complete the system, which might be one too many for even the cash-rich automakers and software majors.
A few days before the advent of the BMW-Daimler partnership in the autonomous driving segment, the companies – along with OEMs Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen, Tier 1 suppliers Aptiv and Continental, hardware chipmakers Intel and Infineon, navigation company HERE and Chinese search engine company Baidu – jointly released a white paper titled ‘Safety First for Automated Driving,’ outlining the framework to build, test and operate an autonomous vehicle safely.
Though it is a comprehensive report, it is by no means a static one – meaning sections of the white paper will be rendered inapplicable if there is a new technology breakthrough within the vertical. The idea behind the paper appears to be to have concrete standards in place that can be used by any company across the world that is looking to invest its energy in the self-driving niche.
This comes at a critical juncture in which companies are locked in a race to commercially deploy autonomous driving vehicles. In February 2019, Ford and Volkswagen created an autonomous driving alliance in which the latter is investing in Ford-backed startup Argo AI, in a shared equity arrangement. Companies like General Motors’ Cruise Automation and Google’s Waymo are already ahead of the curve, with years of testing their vehicles on public roads.