Hands off for BMW driv­ers

Ger­man fo­cus is now on mak­ing more elec­tric ve­hi­cles and au­to­mated driv­ing sys­tems

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

THE steady queue of driv­ers who pay drift­ing spe­cial­ists good money to show them how to hold a car in a slide will be hor­ri­fied to hear BWM plans to take the steer­ing wheel out of their hands.

BMW group last week an­nounced it will sell seven elec­tric or hy­brid cars by the end of the year, and its fo­cus is now on mak­ing more elec­tric ve­hi­cles and au­to­mated driv­ing sys­tems.

Its all part of its growth strat­egy for the next 100 years, which fu­tur­ol­o­gists pre­dict will see less driv­ers and more drivens.

BMW said in a state­ment the group aims to de­liver so­lu­tions for the lat­ter group that are both ground- break­ing and re­spon­si­ble. “Through­out its 100- year his­tory, the BMW Group has al­ways rein­vented it­self. As a pi­o­neer of new tech­nolo­gies, the com­pany has shaped change, within both the in­dus­try and the world of mo­bil­ity,” said Har­ald Krüger, chair­per­son of the board of man­age­ment of BMW AG, at the An­nual Ac­counts Press Con­fer­ence in Mu­nich on Wed­nes­day.

“We are set­ting the stan­dard with our Strat­egy ‘ Num­ber ONE> Next’, both now and in the fu­ture.

“We will lead the BMW Group into a new era, one in which we will trans­form and shape both in­di­vid­ual mo­bil­ity and the en­tire sec­tor in a per­ma­nent way.”

He said in the medium term, the tech­no­log­i­cal fo­cus will be on achiev­ing fur­ther ad­vances in the fields of elec­tric mo­bil­ity and au­to­mated driv­ing to broaden the scope of dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween peo­ple, ve­hi­cles and ser­vices and ac­tively strength­en­ing sus­tain­able mo­bil­ity.

The group has al­ready sold over 50 000 units of the iBrand and the lat­est ver­sion of BMW 7 Se­ries. By 2026 the group plans to have a BMW i model on roads that will stay true to the pro­pel­ler brand’s pre­mium sta­tus in pro­vid­ing in­di­vid­ual mo­bil­ity, even if the car ends up silently whisk­ing it­self from place to place with only voice in­puts as to the desti­na­tion by the driver.

Hedg­ing all its bets, the BMW Group also con­tin­ues to de­velop hy­dro­gen fuel- cell tech­nol­ogy. The com­pany said it be­lieves that a va­ri­ety of drivetrain sys­tems will ex­ist along­side each other in the fu­ture.

The wa­ter- ooz­ing car will pro­vide the same fully net­worked driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as the ze­roe­mis­sion ve­hi­cles.

By bundling the po­ten­tial op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered by dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion, the BMW Group will ce­ment its po­si­tion as tech­no­log­i­cal leader in this field, too. In­side a self- driv­ing Beemer, the “driver” will have ac­cess to high def­i­ni­tion dig­i­tal maps, sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, cloud tech­nol­ogy and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence.

And the self- driv­ing will not be lim­ited to au­to­matic park­ing or slow lanes ei­ther. The BMW 7 Se­ries uses a stereo cam­era and five radar sen­sors, to main­tain a safe dis­tance to the ve­hi­cle ahead, even when driv­ing up to 210 km/ h on mo­tor­ways. And of course it can park it­self at the push of the re­mote con­trol park­ing but­ton.

Apart from the ser­vices it is de­vel­op­ing in its own right, the BMW Group is also in­vest­ing in a num­ber of promis­ing start- ups and ser­vice providers via BMW i Ven­tures. • See page 6 for the next sys­tems to have cars brake them­selves.

PHO­TOS: BMW

Left: In the not to dis­tant fu­ture BMW mod­els will have fold- away ‘ steer­ing wheels’ that will only emerge on de­mand ( top), when a driver de­mands to steer a dif­fer­ent path to what the com­puter deems safe.

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