BMW Group has released further details of plans to release its first fully automated series vehicle by 2021, the new and futuristic BMW iNext.
Earlier this year, the BMW Group announced that it – along with partners Intel and Mobileye -- is planning to introduce a series of new highly automated and fully automated prototype vehicles. Derived from the BMW 7 Series, these prototypes will serve as the progenitor of the new BMW iNext, the BMW Group’s first highly automated series vehicle with Level 3 of autonomous driving capabilities. The BMW Group intends to release the BMW iNext fully autonomous vehicle as early as 2021.
According to BMW, the new iNext will also have Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous driving capabilities, when viewed from a technical perspective. The company remarked that whether the new iNext would be able to achieve such levels (4 and 5) of autonomous driving would depend on several external factors.
The partners – which announced their collaboration in July 2016 – will work together to develop the needed solutions as well as innovative systems to achieve highly and fully automated driving. These solutions are aimed at enabling drivers to not just drive without touching the steering wheel, but also to achieve “eyes off” (Level 3) and then the “mind off” (Level 4) phase. Technically, the iNext should be able to attain the “driver off” (Level 5) final, which means it could go on a trip even without having a human driver inside.
Currently, BMW’s vehicles could offer Level 2 autonomous driving capabilities, which means a driver could take off his or her hands off the steering for a brief period of time.
Around 40 highly automated and fully automated vehicles will serve as prototypes for the project, all of which will be test driven on public roads in Germany (BMW), the United States (Intel) and Israel (Mobileye). These test drives will focus on two primary uses: driving in motorways (without oncoming traffic) and driving in city centers. As per the partners’ theoretical calculations, around 240 million kilometers (150 million miles) of testing on public roads would be necessary to ensure that an autonomous vehicle is safe and reliable in any conceivable driving situation.
However, test driving these prototypes for 240 million kilometers isn’t sensible or practicable in the real-world. Thus, most of the tests will focus on a smaller number of critical driving situations, not the total distance travelled. This is why BMW will analyze "foundation" situations that have been proven in real-world trials.
BMW iNext model will serve as the foundation of BMW Group’s autonomous driving strategy and will be followed by a range of highly automated models from all BMW Group brands.