BMW plans self-driving software overhaul to fend off the likes of Apple, Google

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in Future Apple Hardware
German automaker BMW is planning a major corporate changes going forward, in an effort to build "the most intelligent car" it can, sensing impending competition from Apple, Google and others in Silicon Valley.


BMW's i3 commuter car.


Klaus Froehlich, a BMW board member who oversees the company's research and development, spoke with Reuters at the Geneva auto show this week. He said BMW is working internally on the next evolution of the automotive business, hoping to ensure it doesn't lose out to newcomers.

Froehlich even used an analogy from the smartphone industry, where many companies are simply part of the massive supply chain for profitable handset makers like Apple.

"Our task is to preserve our business model without surrendering it to an Internet player," Froehlich said. "Otherwise we will end up as the Foxconn for a company like Apple, delivering only the metal bodies for them."

This isn't the first time BMW has expressed caution about sharing information with companies like Apple, out of worry that it might effectively become just another supplier. However, technologies like self-driving systems might demand help from outside parties such as Apple and Google, which are more familiar with software.

BMW apparently plans to have half of its R&D team be computer programmers within the next five years. Currently, just 20 percent of its 30,000 R&D employees work in software.

Froehlich said BMW won't be able to hire all of those employees in-house, requiring the company to partner with others and outsource some of the work.

Apple is said to have considered using BMW's i3 as the basis for its "Project Titan" automotive efforts. Apple and BMW have even held talks about a potential partnership, though it's been said that the two parties were not close to an agreement.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and a team of senior managers allegedly visited BMW's electric car facility in Leipzig in 2014.

In particular, Apple was reported to have been impressed that BMW has "abandoned traditional approaches to car making" in developing the i3. Apple's top brass have apparently indicated they are interested in taking a similar, fresh approach to the automobile with their own initiative.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,791member

    BMW apparently plans to have half of its R&D team be computer programmers within the next five years. Currently, just 20 percent of its 30,000 R&D employees work in software.

    Froehlich said BMW won't be able to hire all of those employees in-house, requiring the company to partner with others and outsource some of the work.
    “People who are really serious about hardware should make their own software.”
    auxiocornchiplostkiwilatifbpbadmonkjustadcomicsGilliam_Bates
  • Reply 2 of 43
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,373member
    Bring your dashboard interface into the 21st century first, BMW. Heard of CarPlay?
    edited March 2016 nolamacguyunbeliever2cornchiplostkiwimr o
  • Reply 3 of 43
    techguy911techguy911 Posts: 267member
    Glad to see all this research going into self-driving cars, but I still think we're WAY off from actually seeing them available for regular drivers on real roads.  Probably another 15 years at least.
    tallest skilbrucemcwelshdoglostkiwi
  • Reply 4 of 43
    theothergeofftheothergeoff Posts: 2,081member
    Glad to see all this research going into self-driving cars, but I still think we're WAY off from actually seeing them available for regular drivers on real roads.  Probably another 15 years at least.
    I'm thinking corporate liability lawyers will push it to the far end of your estimate.  My guess these will be safer than 'normal' drivers in 1/2 that time under all conditions.

    Insurance Companies and corporate risk management lawyers need to figure out the wording of the purchase agreement that will protect the BMWs, Googles and Apple's of the world ("you push AutoDrive, and your insurance company and the maker of this car hold you fully liable for what happens after that"), making only the uber-rich (okay, I typed it before I meant it to be a double entendre) willing to actually push the red button.
    cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 43
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,189member
    This is why I laugh anytime the experts say Apple shouldn't do their own car but just build software for other people's cars. Newsflash, automakers don't want to be like Android OEMs. The car infotainment system is a clear differentiator. BMW doesn't want theirs looking just like Audi's.
    cornchip
  • Reply 6 of 43
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    Bring your dashboard interface into the 21st century first, BMW. Heard of CarPlay?
    seriously. these auto jokers can't even master in-dash UI, how the hell do they expect to master complex machine learning?
    unbeliever2jupiteronelostkiwimonstrosity
  • Reply 7 of 43
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,791member
    nolamacguy said:
    seriously. these auto jokers can't even master in-dash UI, how the hell do they expect to master complex machine learning?
    The iDrive system is ok but the way it handles music/songs and contacts list could be improved, but even so, in all the infotainment reviews I've read it is usually rated 1 or 2 out of all the other systems. The BMW voice controls are not very good though. Personally I don't like touch screen in the dash so I'm happy to have the jog wheel. The Mercedes center console touch pad is awful. That is where I usually rest my hand and inadvertent touch commands happen often. I do think BMW has done a better job than others with actual real knobs and buttons for common tasks such as radio presets, temp/fan and volume that you can adjust without taking your eyes off the road or drilling down menus. Their computerized integration with other aspects of the auto are top notch in my opinion.

    Here is an interesting video demo for valet parking an i3.

    http://ineptechs.com/features/watch-this-bmw-valet-park-itself-from-a-smartwatch/
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 8 of 43
    Why would I buy a car I am not allowed to drive? Maybe a people mover like a Toyota, but who will buy a Porsche or Ferrari and say, "Yea, I just want to ride." Also, I am not allowed to drive the car, but I am responsible for how the cars drives ?!?! As far as the concept of being ready to take over, it is far easier to simply drive than it is to constantly watch and hover over the controls.
    tallest skil
  • Reply 9 of 43
    I think we will see the first full time auto drive on high-end cars in 5ish years (door to door) and then in all lower end units about 5 years after that.  Insurance companies will discount your rates significantly if you do not operate the vehicle.
    Once the data starts trickling in about saving lives, everyone will demad access to it! In 10 years no new car will be sold without the capability and auto insurance companies will go out of business soon after that, I hope. You will be covered as part of your home owners or renters policies for the very rare accidents or the car companies will take the hit.

    This will change transportation almost as much as the automobile did at the turn of the last century. It will also have a serious impact on air travel as well... Just Imagine getting into your "car" at say 6pm eat a nice dinner and watch a movie or read a book and then go to sleep and wake up 1200 miles from where you started. No airport, so shuttle, no crowds,  just a 120+mph trip through the night while you sleep. At some point inductive charging or some other tech will allow you to go without stopping.

    it will come!
  • Reply 10 of 43
    Glad to see all this research going into self-driving cars, but I still think we're WAY off from actually seeing them available for regular drivers on real roads.  Probably another 15 years at least.
    Easily 15 years. Liability laws and various traffic- and driving-related regulations have to be changed first, one state at a time. I also think that every taxi driver union (including Uber drivers, who will likely have unionized by then) will do everything possible to delay these laws from passing. 
    tallest skilwelshdog
  • Reply 11 of 43
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,300member
    krreagan2 said:
    I think we will see the first full time auto drive on high-end cars in 5ish years (door to door) and then in all lower end units about 5 years after that.  Insurance companies will discount your rates significantly if you do not operate the vehicle.
    Once the data starts trickling in about saving lives, everyone will demad access to it! In 10 years no new car will be sold without the capability and auto insurance companies will go out of business soon after that, I hope. You will be covered as part of your home owners or renters policies for the very rare accidents or the car companies will take the hit.

    This will change transportation almost as much as the automobile did at the turn of the last century. It will also have a serious impact on air travel as well... Just Imagine getting into your "car" at say 6pm eat a nice dinner and watch a movie or read a book and then go to sleep and wake up 1200 miles from where you started. No airport, so shuttle, no crowds,  just a 120+mph trip through the night while you sleep. At some point inductive charging or some other tech will allow you to go without stopping.

    it will come!
    They still haven’t built the space elevator you know. Or returned to the moon. Nice delusion, especially the part about insurance companies going out of business.
    cornchip
  • Reply 12 of 43
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,622member
    BMW has 30,000 R&D employees?  Does that include the clerks, secretaries, accountants and custodians in the R&D department?
  • Reply 13 of 43
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,015member
    Glad to see all this research going into self-driving cars, but I still think we're WAY off from actually seeing them available for regular drivers on real roads.  Probably another 15 years at least.
    Make that 4 years

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-07/driverless-car-trial-on-southern-expressway/6921060
    justadcomics
  • Reply 14 of 43
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,288member
    What the car companies don't get is that the iPhone is the nexus of our life. Who wants to use a half-assed version of it when you get into a car? Then go back to the real thing when you get out? Seamless convenience is the holy grail. When BMW can deliver a hand held device that does everything my phone does only better, I'll be happy to use it both in and out of their car. Slim chance of that happening. Probably less than that Apple will come out with a car better than BMW's. 
    cornchiplostkiwiAnibadmonknolamacguyjustadcomicsbdkennedy1002
  • Reply 15 of 43
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,367member
    Vee vill tell you zee directions!
    tallest skilJanNL
  • Reply 16 of 43
    As an employee with BMW I find their direction on dashboards and infotainment frustrating, especially after getting an early look at the new 7 Series.

    However, I think Froehlich is grossly exaggerating his comment about BMW just becoming another Foxconn. People don't buy BMWs for their infotainment - they buy them for how they drive. BMW, Mercedes and Audi all have a different philosophy on driving dynamics and each has carved out their chunk of the luxury/performance car market. BMW's are the best handling, Mercedes are the most luxurious/have the best ride quality and Audi is in the middle while also promoting their AWD abilities.

    I've seen lots of data from BMW dealers about customers who left to get a Mercedes and came back to BMW because they missed how they drive. There are also just as many Mercedes drivers who were first time BMW owners who also went back to Mercedes.

    BMW can continue to concentrate on the driving dynamics and performance of their vehicles and also cooperate with someone like Apple on the interior ergonomics and let Apple take over the complete dashboard. A BMW will STILL be a BMW and there will be plenty of their DNA in the final car. They don't have to worry about becoming Foxconn, who simply mass produce things based on other companies designs.
  • Reply 17 of 43
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,389member
    This is why I laugh anytime the experts say Apple shouldn't do their own car but just build software for other people's cars. Newsflash, automakers don't want to be like Android OEMs. The car infotainment system is a clear differentiator. BMW doesn't want theirs looking just like Audi's.
    And Audi's self driving tech is pretty advanced too from what I've seen.
  • Reply 18 of 43
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,389member
    People don't buy BMWs for their infotainment - they buy them for how they drive. 
    That's no joke. I can't imagine going back to anything else except Porsche, but you've gotta have a pretty fat wallet to own one of those. The feel they have engineered is intoxicating. However, while BMW may be open to Apple taking responsibility for their infotainment system, I HIGHLY doubt Apple is interested in being a dashboard supplier for one auto manufacturer or even a handful. The years it would take to sign those deals and get it all worked out. By then they could have designed their own car. Which I believe they are.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 19 of 43
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,396member
    Glad to see all this research going into self-driving cars, but I still think we're WAY off from actually seeing them available for regular drivers on real roads.  Probably another 15 years at least.
    Easily 15 years. Liability laws and various traffic- and driving-related regulations have to be changed first, one state at a time. I also think that every taxi driver union (including Uber drivers, who will likely have unionized by then) will do everything possible to delay these laws from passing. 
    Actually, Uber is just one more of the companies pouring money into mapping and self-driving vehicle development. They know that the need for human drivers will disappear and they want to be ahead of the next wave.
    edited March 2016
  • Reply 20 of 43
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Vee vill tell you zee directions!
    Automobiles vill be built und schrappt! 
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