BMW has been an industry leader in automated driving technology, but you might not be able to tell that from its current stable of products. Though certainly tech-savvy, BMWs don’t offer — save the self-parking 7 Series — the same level of semi-autonomous tech as some of its competitors. There’s good reason for that, though.
Unlike Tesla, which is beta-testing its Autopilot suite of self-driving systems on public roads with customers, BMW will wait to implement automated driving technology in its cars. “We can offer automated driving on the motorway up to 120 kilometers per hour,” BMW Chief Executive Harald Krüger told Handelsblatt. “But our technology must be 100 percent reliable.”
To that end, Krüger is concerned that companies are adopting an app industry-style approach to technological implementation.
“In the app industry, you can launch products on the market that are 70 to 80 percent ready and then complete their development with the customer,” Krüger said. “That is absolutely impossible with safety features in a car.”
And that point is perfectly underscored by the immediate reactions Tesla Model S owners had to Autosteer and Auto Lane Change systems in the Autopilot 7.0 software update. In fact, after seeing some of the “crazy” things Tesla owners were doing with Autopilot, company co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said the upstart EV automaker would be adding “additional constraints” to the system.
Instead of offering semi-autonomous tech in one single lump, BMW will parse it out over time. “It starts with automatic parking without the driver at the wheel, which we already offer today in our new BMW 7 series version. The next step will be that you get out of the car in front of the parking garage and the car then looks for a space itself and parks,” Krüger admitted. “It will continue with automated driving on the motorway.”
Despite being slow to implement self-driving tech, BMW aims to be “a technology leader.”