05 July, 2019

BMW and Daimler confirm autonomous vehicle partnership

Daimler and BMW have confirmed their partnership in the development of autonomous vehicles as both companies look to share the burden and rewards surrounding the future of mobility.

The two companies have signed a long-term strategic cooperation, which will focus on joint development of next-generation technologies for driver assistance systems, automated driving on highways and automated parking (all to SAE Level 4 Automation). In addition, further talks are planned to extend the cooperation to higher levels of automation in urban areas and city centres.

An initial plan to jointly develop driverless vehicles was announced in February, following the confirmation of the carmakers’ strategic alliance in the car-sharing and mobility sector, with the merger of DriveNow and car2go.

Invitation extended

In its statement, BMW has highlighted that the collaboration is non-exclusive, and has extended the possibility of other manufacturers and technology firms joining forces with the German companies to develop a scalable platform for autonomous driving. Additionally, this platform will also be available to carmakers under licence.

A key aim of the cooperation is the quick introduction of the technology for the market, which the carmakers expect to feature in passenger vehicles for private customers from 2024. Daimler and BMW will each implement the technologies developed by the partnership in their respective models independently.

The cooperation will see more than 1,200 specialists working together, often in mixed teams. They will be based at locations including the BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleissheim, near Munich, the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre (MTC) in Sindelfingen and the Daimler Testing and Technology Centre in Immendingen.

Efforts will focus on developing a scalable architecture for driver assistance systems, including sensors, as well as a joint data centre for data storage, administration and processing, and the development of functions and software.

Manufacturer efforts

BMW has been working on highly automated driving since 2006 and has established a non-exclusive platform with technology specialists, suppliers and OEMs to take it to series maturity. The company is currently working with Intel, Mobileye, Delphi and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) on technology development.

Daimler has been working on series development projects not only for specific Level 3 vehicles, but also for Levels 4 and 5. The carmaker will launch its first pilot programme, in association with Bosch, for self-driving vehicles using Level 4 and Level 5 technologies in urban environments later this year.

The news follows the publication of a white paper on autonomous vehicle safety. Safety First for Automated Driving covers all relevant safety methods for Level 3/4 automated driving, as well as introducing a traceability system, which extends from the primary goal – being safer than the average driver – right down to the individual safety objectives of the various components. BMW and Daimler collaborated on the paper, together with Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, Continental, Fiat Chrysler, HERE, Infineon, Intel and Volkswagen.

The collaboration between the two German companies comes at a time when the industry is looking to consolidate its research and development in order to share the related costs and efforts of bringing new technologies to market. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) recently announced a partnership with BMW to develop electric vehicle (EV) powertrains, while an announcement on a partnership for both EV and autonomous vehicle development between Ford and Volkswagen is expected to be confirmed at the latter’s board meeting on 11 July. Both are already collaborating on the development of commercial vehicles.