BMW is steering full speed ahead on autonomous driving in China. The German automaker today announced its Chinese team is starting development of Level 3 self-driving tailored for China, aiming to prep localized L3 functionality for compliance with regulations when it launches globally next year.
This pedal-to-the-metal move accelerates BMW’s plan to unveil L3 capabilities allowing drivers to play games and stream videos by late 2023. BMW says its next-gen L3 tech suite beefs up sensors like LIDAR and radar to build a comprehensive “environmental model”.
The automaker’s new Czech test track – its largest globally – opened this summer to put driver-assist and robo-ride tech through its paces. Spanning over 6 million square meters, the mega site near Munich boasts 6 test tracks covering 25 km, 80 meter slopes, a 6 km highway loop, and urban/rural road simulations ideal for pushing L4 full autonomy to its limits. Engineers are already tuning and testing on some tracks.
BMW also foresees the site perfecting automated valet parking, teaming with supplier Faurecia to enable hands-free parking and charging.
China’s massive market makes it mission-critical for BMW’s autonomous ambitions. The automaker plowed over €6.6 billion into R&D last year, targeting next-gen BMW eDrive platforms and pillar technologies like AI and drivers aids.
BMW says its new Shanghai R&D center forms the core of its largest R&D footprint outside Germany. With accelerating investment in China facilities, could BMW eventually steer more autonomous development from its Shanghai digs?
Either way, BMW flooding resources into prepping Chinese-tailored L3 self-driving shows it’s serious about owning automation in this mega market.