Page Overview: BMW Group - Innovation - Technology and Mobility - Autonomous Driving
Intelligence that drives us.

The future of driving is autonomous.

Mobility is undergoing a transformation unlike anything we have seen before. At the BMW Group, this presents us with enormous challenges. We are meeting these head on with innovative technologies – but the safety of our customers always remains our top priority. We already offer driver assistance systems, such as speed, steering and lane control assistants. With these developments, we are on the threshold of highly-automated driving.

The cars of the future don't need rigid programmes; they need a kind of artificial intelligence that learns with every mile and takes the owner's habits into account.

Member of the Board of Management of the BMW Group, responsible for Development

Have you ever wondered?

BMW driving on a road

Does this mean the end of "sheer driving pleasure"?

BMW will always stand for “sheer driving pleasure” – but we want to achieve it in many different ways. Depending on the situation, we want customers to be able to experience the pleasure of being driven, as well as the pleasure of driving. Today, drivers in urban areas across Germany spend an average of 30 hours a year stuck in traffic. Once the vehicle can drive itself, these people will be able to make much better use of this time: for example, for relaxation, working or reading.

Head Up Display

What if the car causes an accident?

The overwhelming majority of road accidents are stilled caused by human error. However, the Level 1 and 2 vehicle assistance systems built into our current models can already prevent accidents. We expect further automation to drastically reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities. Nevertheless, the laws of driving physics still apply to autonomous vehicles, so it will never be possible to avoid critical situations altogether.

Symbol image data collection

How much data does a 24-hour test drive generate?

A fully-autonomous vehicle produces 40 terabytes of data during a 24-hour test drive. If the BMW Group were to burn this data onto Blu-ray Dual Layer Discs, for example, it would need 800 per day. 20 years ago, when we still used floppy disks, it would have taken 27 million per day. The test drives would have come to an abrupt end, however, since the world’s annual global disk supply would have been exhausted after just 74 days by a single vehicle.  

Camera recording traffic data

How does a car learn to see?

Highly- and fully-automated driving is not possible without sensors. Because to register all relevant aspects of the environment, vehicles need different kinds of sensors that work day and night, but also in any weather conditions. To achieve this, our test fleet is equipped with lidar, several cameras geared towards the front and back, and short and long-range radar sensors located all around the vehicle, as well as ultrasound sensors. 

Motorway with marked lanes

Why does the BMW Group have such good maps?

Highly accurate and real-time capable maps are essential for autonomous driving. The BMW Group acquired HERE with AUDI AG and Daimler AG back in 2015. Starting in the next decade, BMW Group vehicles will come with the very latest mapping technology: the HERE HD Live Map, which combines high-resolution map data with real-time information from other vehicles. In this way, cars and their drivers are able to see even farther than their vehicle sensors. The cards are an important component to make autonomous driving safe.

How can pedestrians understand autonomous vehicles?

Video about the project InterACT

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In the future, autonomous vehicles will have to interact with people passing by. But how will this interaction work when there isn’t a driver behind the wheel?

Studies conducted so far show that the most important factor in smooth interaction between road users is the motion of the vehicle: What direction is it driving in and how fast it is going? Is it braking or accelerating? Motion is interaction! When an automated vehicle brakes early, in a way that is clearly perceptible, it signals to the pedestrian that it is safe for them to cross the road. The general principle is to make the driving strategy of our autonomous vehicles as human and unambiguous as possible, so key information can be relayed through driving behaviour.

In the InterACT research project, we are exploring whether additional light signals can make autonomous vehicles’ intentions easier to understand. Here, also, it appears that clear driving behaviour can ensure safe interaction between road users. 

BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus.

Architecture image

Short distances, quick decisions, agile talents.

Discover how we at the BMW Group are working towards the first self-driving car. Everything comes together at the BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus, which was specially built for this purpose: Here, top talents from different areas of expertise find new work environments and new methods of working. The campus brings all development steps together in one place, so that software developers only have to walk a few steps to test the code they have just written in the vehicle right away. 

The future in five steps.

Five levels of autonomous driving

It will still be a few years before series-production vehicles are capable of autonomous driving. The automotive industry categorises this development in five levels. This video shows you what they are and what stage we are currently at.        

Our road to autonomous driving.

Autonomous in Hollywood.
1997 Autonomous in Hollywood.

In "Tomorrow Never Dies", James Bond futuristically steered his BMW through a parking garage - from his mobile phone. Audiences loved the image of a car with no driver. Back then, it came straight out of Q's bag of spy tricks; today, cars like the BMW 7 Series can be parked automatically by remote control.

BMW TrackTrainer
2006 Automated racing to the limits.

For the first time, BMW presented the BMW TrackTrainer, which autonomously finds the ideal racing line and finished the Nürburgring's Nordschleife, the world's most demanding racetrack, at racing speed.

research cars driving on the A9 Autobahn
2011 Driving down the A9 at 130 km/h.

Our highly-automated research cars have been driving on the A9 Autobahn since mid-2011 at speeds of up to 130 km/h, obeying all the rules of the road, but without a hand on the wheel.

A research vehicle based on a BMW 2 Series Coupé
2014 The Coupé coup.

A research vehicle based on a BMW 2 Series Coupé pushed highly-automated driving to the limits - with perfect autonomous drifting.

BMW i3 parking itself in a space in a parking garage
2015 Parking prowess.

In Las Vegas, BMW had a BMW i3 park itself in a space in a parking garage dynamically and safely without a driver for the first time.

BMW 7 Series manoeuvering itself into and out of a garage
2016 Sensors as standard.

The new BMW 7 Series manoeuvres itself into and out of garages and parking spaces without a driver and can steer itself and maintain its distance from other vehicles on the highway at speeds up to 210 km/h. Using cameras, radar, and ultrasound sensors, the BMW 7 Series is already able to recognise every detail of its surroundings.

BMW i Inside Future sculpture
2017 The vision takes shape.

At the CES 2017, we unveiled our vision of the vehicle of the future with the BMW i Inside Future sculpture: The design of the vehicle interior and its operating system are entirely geared towards fully-automated driving. The vehicle is also seamlessly integrated with the driver's digital lifestyle.

Research cars
2018 Rethinking research.

In April, the BMW Group opened its Autonomous Driving Campus, where a variety of different talents collaborate on research into self-driving vehicles in a new form of cooperation. The campus is a ground-breaking development facility with modern work environments and an intelligent IT infrastructure, which brings all development steps together in one place.

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