BMW releases more details about iNext, its first fully autonomous vehicle

Article by Christian A., on June 3, 2017

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.

Press Release

Automated driving at the BMW Group

The CES 2017 fair in Las Vegas saw the BMW Group announce its intention to release a succession of prototype vehicles during 2017 in collaboration with Intel and Mobileye. These will form a fleet of 40 highly automated and fully automated vehicles by the end of the year. Test drives will take place on public roads and focus on two main types of use: driving without oncoming traffic (motorways) and driving in city centre environments. The test drives will be mainly conducted in the home countries of the three partners, namely USA, Israel and Germany.

By developing these BMW 7 Series advanced prototypes collaboratively, the partners will ensure the timely roll out of the BMW Group's first highlyautomated series vehicle (level 3) – the BMW iNext, due in 2021. BMW iNext is the BMW Group's first venture into highly-automated driving. From a technical perspective, the BMW iNext will also be capable of level 4 and 5 operation. Whether or not this is achievable in practice depends on a number of external factors, but it is not yet possible to predict how these will develop.

For an autonomous vehicle to be considered market ready, it must behave safely and reliably in any conceivable driving situation, as well as operating in a way that is predictable for other road users. Theoretical calculations have determined that around 240 million kilometres (150 million miles) of testing on public roads would be needed to provide assurance for every situation. In practice, this is neither practicable nor sensible. In fact, the most relevant tests relate to a much smaller number of critical driving situations, not the total distance travelled. Instead, autonomous vehicle safeguarding is carried out by analysing "foundation" situations that have been investigated in real-world trials. These situations are then extrapolated using stochastic simulation to provide comprehensive validation. For example, in future BMW will be in a position where it is able to test around five million driving situations per simulation for every software release within a very short space of time.

Artificial intelligence is a discipline within the field of computer science. Its goal is to use computer programs to solve problems that could not otherwise be solved without using the intelligence of a human being. Artificial intelligence is important as a key technology for many aspects of mobility, now and in the future.

There are many different areas at BMW where it is being applied. These include optimisation of production processes and the development of customised natural-language interactions for customers. Another field where artificial intelligence can be applied is in the creation of highly accurate road maps with dynamic content, such as temporary obstacles and live traffic information. It can also play a key role in intelligent multimodal routing, intelligent car sharing and ride sharing, provision of location-based services and other services that are personalised based on user context.

The BMW Group is already active in all these areas and is working on combining them into an total user experience that is both attractive and useful to users. Artificial intelligence is increasingly allowing computers to find solutions to highly complex problems, something that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

Software developers at the BMW Group are playing a significant role in such developments and have the opportunity to experience the new technology directly through the product.

Artificial intelligence as a key enabler for autonomous driving. It was clear even in the early days that autonomous driving would not become a reality if purely rules-based approaches were used. Instead, realising the vision of autonomous driving requires machine learning systems.

Communications A diverse range of real-world data must be collected by a vehicle's on-board sensors in order to facilitate a data-driven development cycle. This results in vast quantities of data that must then be processed and made available by the artificial intelligence system. A data centre is currently being set up for this purpose, in collaboration with Intel, and will be further extended in the coming months. Training of neural networks and further development of algorithms requires the data to be always quickly accessible, so the facility is being equipped with a corresponding amount of computing power. The data centre will also simulate scenarios that occur so rarely in the real world that test coverage could not otherwise be truly comprehensive.

The result is artificial intelligence with an ever-increasing ability to develop models of reality. Another artificial intelligence system is required in the vehicle to make an intelligent interpretation of the situations it faces based on the models. Without this, the vehicle cannot derive a driving strategy with the necessary degree of confidence.

Source: BMW

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