Jennifer van der Kleut
In somewhat of a surprise move, BMW has announced it has developed a self-driving car that will be ready to hit the market in five years.
Why is it a surprise? Because BMW has never mentioned working on the technology–while, meanwhile, everyone from Google to Tesla, Ford, General Motors and others have been making their own autonomous-car announcements one after the other over the past year or two.
As WIRED reported, BMW made the announcement Friday that it will be deploying these fully-autonomous cars for ridesharing purposes.
The cars will rely on technology from chip-making giant Intel and the popular Israeli firm Mobileye. As we reported, Mobileye recently teamed up with Colmobil Corp., and has already put the first autonomous car up for sale in Israel.
Mobileye’s comprehensive, high-tech mapping technology is making the firm a highly sought-after partner for autonomous car development.
“Mapping is the key to making these cars work. A self-driving car with detailed maps can dedicate far more computing power to identifying and addressing things like cyclists, pedestrians and other cars in real-time,” WIRED stated. “That’s why TomTom still exists, and why BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen chipped in to buy [Nokia’s] mapping company Here last year.”
As Bloomberg points out, this announcement makes BMW AG the first automaker to set a specific date to promise delivery of autonomous cars to market.
Ridesharing businesses have been identified as big potential money-makers for autonomous vehicles. Already, several automakers including Volkswagen, Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Chinese company Didi Chuxing have announced plans to launch ridesharing/robot taxi companies, some of which are already operating in select markets.
Robo-taxis will make up 40 percent of automotive profits by 2030, making them a bigger revenue-generator than selling vehicles to individuals, according to consulting company Roland Berger, reports Bloomberg. In particular, they could prove to be very helpful to the elderly and the disabled.