(Premium) car manufacturers, unite: recently, BMW and Daimler announced in Berlin that they are launching five joint ventures that will offer mobility services such as solutions for car sharing, the search for parking spaces, and many more.
On February 28, the two manufacturers announced their intention to enter into a second new partnership. Daimler is planning to work together with BMW in the future on the next technology generation for driving assistance systems and on systems that enable conditionally automated driving on highways and automated parking functions. Why does this alliance make sense? The answer is simple: Because automated driving is a future-oriented technology that will radically transform our industry — and because in the long run we will be not only stronger but also more successful as partners than we would be alone.
What is already possible today: partial automation
The vision of autonomous driving is not only as old as the automobile itself — it’s also a central component of the strategy at Daimler. The vehicles you can see at your Mercedes-Benz dealer today can already do a great deal. Thanks to the Daimler active distance assistant DISTRONIC, the active steering assistant, the active lane-change assistant, and many other innovations, Daimler has already come very close to our goal of automated driving.
By means of currently available systems, a Mercedes-Benz can, for example, maintain the correct distance to vehicles ahead and drive partially automated on highways and country roads, as well as in cities. These systems also assist the driver with lane changes, evasive manoeuvres, and braking. And many models can be driven in and out of parking spaces via remote control from a smartphone — with the Remote Parking Assist.
At Mercedes-Benz, these features are called Intelligent Drive. With this, they have reached the level that engineers call SAE Level 2 or “partial automation.” This means that the car can already react automatically in many predefined situations — however, a human driver must always monitor traffic as well as the vehicle’s surroundings and be ready to react if necessary.
But above all, they have learned that the development of these systems is a bit like climbing a mountain. Taking the first few meters from the base station to the summit seems easy. But the closer you come to the goal, the thinner the air around you becomes, the more strength is required for each further step, and the more complex become the challenges you have to resolve in order to make progress.
From Level 3 to the summit
Further progress can be made more successfully and efficiently if the manufacturers are not alone. Daimler also believes that BMW is the perfect partner. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Daimler has now signed, deals with the development of several automation stages up to Level 4. Level 4 means “high automation”: The driver does not even need to be ready to take over control of the vehicle — he or she could even be sleeping. The aim of our partnership is to develop systems that make automated driving scalable and take it to the next level in a variety of contexts — in China and in the USA as well as on the German Autobahn A8, which connects the BMW Tower in Munich with the Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart.
A shared platform instead of isolated solutions
One thing is clear: BMW and Mercedes-Benz are competitors. The partnership will not become a new joint venture. Instead, we are planning to work together with BMW to develop a scalable and reliable platform that will bring optimal benefits to the customers of both brands. As part of this cooperative venture, we are also open to further partnerships that can contribute to the success of this platform.
It makes sense to distribute the technological and financial challenges of automated driving across a number of shoulders. It’s also clear that other existing partnerships and ongoing projects are not affected by intended cooperation between BMW and Daimler. For example, as Daimler has planned and already announced within the framework of our cooperation with Bosch, this year we will launch the first pilot for testing self-driving vehicles (Level 4/5) in urban surroundings in San José in Silicon Valley.
A long tradition of development at both manufacturers…
In spite of all the differences between BMW and Mercedes-Benz, they are also similar in many areas. For example, the men and women from Munich also have many years of experience in the areas of driving assistance and automated driving. BMW has worked on highly automated driving for a long time, and opened its Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleißheim – a suburb of Munich – in 2017, where BMW is consolidating all of its areas of expertise related to automated driving. The automation technology that the experts there are now working on will go into series production for the first time in the BMW iNEXT model in 2021.
At Daimler, long a leader in active safety systems, it programmed its systems largely in-house right from the very beginning. 2019 will see the launch in San José, Silicon Valley, of its first pilot programme, with Bosch, on self-driving vehicles (Levels 4/5) in urban environments. This will be the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned. Early next decade, Daimler will bring to the market not only highly automated (Level 3) vehicles but also fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles. It is the only to the OEM in the world to be so well-positioned to apply autonomous driving in every relevant context, from passenger cars and vans to buses and trucks, and is therefore relying on scalable solutions to deliver automated driving.
The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that BMW and Daimler will pass the next milestone on the road to automated driving together. Their goal is to make the new technology generation available to our customers as early as the mid-2020s. It is all only logical: the suppliers who develop and produce elements of this automated driving architecture are for both manufacturers roughly the same… and it is crucial for these supplier/manufacturers to develop a broad (home) basis for their global ambitions…
Hans Knol ten Bensel