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BMW, Mercedes-Benz Put Aside Differences to Jointly Tackle Self-Driving Cars

March 20, 2019
Long-term strategic cooperation is planned to bring to market fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles early in the next decade.

Traditional rivals BMW and Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz) may seem strange bedfellows, but the two automotive groups are joining forces on automated driving. Initially, their focus will be on advancing the development of next-generation technologies for driver-assistance systems, automated driving on highways, and parking features (up to SAE Level 4).

The two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on this technology, which is essential for future mobility. The BMW Group and Daimler AG view their partnership as a long-term, strategic cooperation and aim to make next-level technologies widely available by the middle of the coming decade.

“As we continue to pursue our strategy, we are combining the expertise of two technology leaders,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development. “At the BMW Group, long-term partnerships within a flexible, scalable, non-exclusive platform are fundamental to advancing the industrialization of autonomous driving. Combining the key expertise of our two companies will boost our innovative strength and speed up the spread of this technology.”

Ola Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, said, “Autonomous driving is one of the most revolutionary trends for us at the moment, and the entire Daimler Group is working very hard on it. As always at Daimler, our top priority is safety. Instead of individual, standalone solutions, we want to develop a reliable overall system that offers noticeable added-value for customers. Working with the right partners, we want to make significant advances in enhancing the performance of this technology and bring it safely on the road.”

The two companies see several advantages in the planned cooperation: the skills and experience of the individual partners and a scalable architecture that will speed up and streamline the development of future technology generations. Apart from synergies, new technologies will be faster to market, with shorter innovation cycles as a result of the common effort. For both companies, the safety of vehicle occupants and other road users is cited as being of the utmost importance and a key reason for making the reliability of systems an important criterion for the collaboration.

Levels of Automation

Joint development work will be carried out via a scalable architecture covering several stages of automation, with Levels 3 and 4 enabling automated driving on highways. In addition, the two partners plan to discuss the possibility of extending their collaboration to cover higher levels of automation, both on highways and in urban areas. These considerations are said by both to underline the sustainable, long-term nature of their cooperation, which includes the aim to create a scalable platform for automated driving.

Autonomous concept cars from BMW (left) and Mercedes-Benz (right).

The development of current-generation technologies and ongoing collaborations of the two companies will remain unaffected and continue as before. Similarly, ongoing development of the latest-generation technologies and existing collaborations will remain unaffected by the projected cooperation and will continue as planned. The BMW Group and Daimler AG will also explore additional partnerships with other technology companies and automotive manufacturers that could contribute to the success of the platform.

Since 2017, work on automated driving at the BMW Group has been consolidated at the Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleissheim, just north of Munich. The industrialization and scalability of the technology is being advanced with the support of partners.

Around the world, more than 70 test vehicles are in trials collecting data to improve machine learning with artificial intelligence (AI) through simulations and to test new Level 2 - 5 functions out on the road. The generation of technologies that’s currently under development will go into series production as Level 3 automation in 2021 in the BMW iNEXT vehicle, which will also be Level 4 enabled for pilot projects.

Daimler AG has been working on series development projects not only for specific Level 3 vehicles, but also for Levels 4 and 5. The company has programmed its systems largely in-house right from the very beginning. This year will see the launch in San Jose, Calif., with Bosch, of its first self-driving vehicle pilot program (Levels 4/5) in urban environments. It will represent the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned. Early next decade, Daimler expects to bring to market not only highly automated (Level 3) vehicles, but fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles as well.

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