BMW AG has imposed a year-end deadline for potential industry partners to join the autonomous vehicle alliance it leads together with suppliers Intel Corp. and Mobileye NV. It believes more carmakers will follow Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in joining.
The German automaker aims to develop a scalable Level 5 self-driving system for its upcoming iNEXT model and then work backward to an easier configuration by subtracting complexity. It's meant to ensure the company can respond flexibly to different regulatory environments.
“Other OEMs -- whether they are capable of designing it on their own, or need it as a customer -- have to decide in the next couple of years which train they want to board. There will certainly be very many carmakers that dock onto some sort of cooperation, because the expense involved is very high,” explained Klaus Friedrich, head of research and development.
After roughly nine months of defining the management team, the strategy and the technical concept, Froehlich said the company has been on the hunt for partners, especially those that can bring a good geographical balance of its key markets including the U.S., Europe and China.
Froehlich expects only one more Tier 1 partner to limit organizational complexity, but he believes there room for much more than one automaker to join. "We think that the OEM partnering has just started," he said, adding he believed on the basis of discussions held that FCA was only the first.
"All those that knock on our door in 2018 would be able to acquire the system (as a customer) but they cannot make an engineering contribution," Froehlich said, adding that new members would only be included if they were to develop specific applications such as a robotaxi fleet.
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