BMW refocuses 'i' division on self-driving cars as Honda shows off autonomous prototypes

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More potential competition for the rumored "Apple Car" emerged on Thursday, as BMW said that it is relaunching its "i" division to concentrate on self-driving vehicles, just a day after Honda revealed its own prototypes in that field.

BMW's electric i3.
BMW's electric i3.


BMW made the changeover in April, board member Klaus Froehlich told Reuters. The initiative -- called "Project i Next" -- is now in a "ramp-up stage," according to Froehlich. The company is reportedly hiring people with experience in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and working to integrate current computer-assisted systems like automatic parking and lane-holding.

Froehlich hinted that BMW might eventually be able to launch its own ridesharing business, but might also partner with an existing company, particularly in regions like China. The carmaker's strategy on such partnerships is still being developed.

BMW's existing i-series vehicles -- the hybrid i8 and fully electric i3 -- have largely failed to take off, with the latter managing only 25,000 sales in 2015. Cost may be a major issue, since while the i3 starts at $42,400 -- making it much cheaper than a Tesla Model S -- it's more expensive than something like the Nissan Leaf without offering a matching leap in driving range.

One of Honda's self-driving prototypes.
One of Honda's self-driving prototypes.


Honda meanwhile showcased two self-driving prototypes on Wednesday, promising to put its first fully automated cars on sale in 2020, Reuters said. The company noted that it is already building some semi-autonomous functions into current models, namely Acuras and the 2016 Civic.

The chief engineer for Honda Research and Development Americas, Jim Keller, pointed out that the company is planning to offer self-driving systems across its lineup, instead of just reserving them for luxury vehicles.

Honda's demonstration notably took place at GoMentum Station, a place Apple has considered for testing its own self-driving technology. It's not clear if Apple has signed any deal, but the company is nevertheless expected to ship its first electric car in 2019 or 2020, even if the first model may not be self-driving.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,766member
    I don't think they will sell very well until they can eliminate all that crap on the roof.
    edited June 2016 davebarnesfotoformat
  • Reply 2 of 14
    schlackschlack Posts: 682member
    volcan said:
    I don't think they will sell very well until they can eliminate all that crap on the roof.
    It's a prototype man. And those sensors are far more advanced than what Tesla uses in the Model S/X.
    bestkeptsecret
  • Reply 3 of 14
    25,000 is not a failure for a niche division of a major company using that niche division to test modular design and carbon fiber. They are taking what they've learned in real world tests and placing that in all their other vehicles. Stick to Apple "rumors," at least there you can speculate failures before they actually fail just like the rest of the world and appear to know what you're talking about.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    davebarnesdavebarnes Posts: 267member

    I don't think they will sell very well until they can eliminate all that crap on the roof.

    I agree. Get some decent design sense, people.

    edited June 2016
  • Reply 5 of 14
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,766member
    schlack said:
    It's a prototype man. And those sensors are far more advanced than what Tesla uses in the Model S/X.
    I realize that, but can they attain the required precision without such bulky equipment? It is a laws of physics issue. Lidar, cameras and lasers, etc have to be rather big to guarantee the level of effectiveness needed to meet the safety requirements of the system.

    edited June 2016
  • Reply 6 of 14
    staticx57staticx57 Posts: 398member
    volcan said:
    schlack said:
    It's a prototype man. And those sensors are far more advanced than what Tesla uses in the Model S/X.
    I realize that, but can they attain the required precision without such bulky equipment? It is a laws of physics issue. Lidar, cameras and lasers, etc have to be rather big to guarantee the level of effectiveness needed to meet the safety requirements of the system.

    No, they can't. Only Apple can.
    xamax
  • Reply 7 of 14
    blitz1blitz1 Posts: 412member
    So Apple is entering a market where every major player has already working prototypes?

    Interesting...
  • Reply 8 of 14
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,766member
    blitz1 said:
    So Apple is entering a market where every major player has already working prototypes?
    That's what they always do. They let the others blaze a trail littered with broken axe handles and then they come in and pave the way.
    edited June 2016 lolliverxamax
  • Reply 9 of 14
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,422member
    volcan said:
    I don't think they will sell very well until they can eliminate all that crap on the roof.
    Really?  Do you expect prototype, testing equipment to be completely polished and consumer-ready at v1.0 or don't even bother developing it?
    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 14
    blitz1 said:
    So Apple is entering a market where every major player has already working prototypes?

    Interesting...
    How do we know Apple doesn't already have a working prototype?
    Apple doesn't show off prototypes, or even talk about what they are working on or how far along they are.
    lolliverxamax
  • Reply 11 of 14
    ronmgronmg Posts: 163member
    Exactly, johnny mozzarella. I hate when people think Apple is far behind just because they don't broadcast where they are in development/prototyping.
    lolliverxamax
  • Reply 12 of 14
    blitz1blitz1 Posts: 412member
    Apple car:
    - no dealers
    - no experience
    - no track record
    - no wide spread servicing

    competing against BMW, Audi, Mercedes, ...

    Again, interesting!

    (But then, of course, their car won't break - a.k.a. our software doesn't have bugs)
  • Reply 13 of 14
    colinngcolinng Posts: 80member
    blitz1 said:
    Apple car:
    - no dealers
    - no experience
    - no track record
    - no wide spread servicing

    competing against BMW, Audi, Mercedes, ...

    Again, interesting!

    (But then, of course, their car won't break - a.k.a. our software doesn't have bugs)
    You could have said exactly the same for iPhone in 2007. They're bright people - they'll figure it out. 
    magman1979xamax
  • Reply 14 of 14
    I wonder what's the life expectancy of these high tech wonders? My truck is 18 years old, and it is just getting broken in!
    xamax
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