Now, BMW is embarking on a further research project, which it says will pave the way for autonomous, or “highly automated” as BMW labels it, driving in China. Whereas typical features that have to be taken into account in Europe include tunnels, national borders and toll stations, China’s fast-expanding urban centers also present engineers with challenges such as multi-level highways.
The project will run for the next two years and include a number of prototypes. BMW’s prototypes rely on digital maps, GPS, and radar and camera sensors for their control, and at present the autonomous driving is only done in highway situations. One of BMW’s key partners in the development of its autonomous cars has been Continental.
Like most automakers, BMW sees autonomous driving as a way to reduce accidents, essentially by eliminating human error. In addition to the safety aspect, autonomous driving is also expected to enhance comfort and efficiency.
Note, Mercedes-Benz is the only automaker at present to have in its lineup a car capable of driving autonomously. Cadillac has confirmed it will launch its own semi-autonomous vehicle for the 2017 model year and Audi has said it will have the technology available before the end of the decade. BMW has also stated in the past that it will have a semi-autonomous system available by the end of the decade.