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BMW To Compete With Google To Build Software For Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 124

SmartAboutThings writes: Google is about to get some serious competition in the self-driving car race from none other than BMW, one of the most prominent names in the car industry. Speaking to Reuters, BMW's Head of Research and Development, Klaus Frohlich, said the following while present at the Geneva Motor Show: "For me it is a core competence to have the most intelligent car. Our task is to preserve our business model without surrendering it to an internet player. Otherwise we will end up as the Foxconn for a company like Apple, delivering only the metal bodies for them." BMW believes its competitors in the future will include internet taxi service Uber and sales website TrueCar. As the company is approaching its 100th birthday, the company is now on a quest to build the "ultimate driving machine." The company is preparing for a world in which its customers will be mere passengers, and the cars will do the driving themselves.
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BMW To Compete With Google To Build Software For Self-Driving Cars

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  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    90% of the reason I buy BMWs is because they ar enjoyable to drive. If it drives itself then they are alienating their fan base, who may as well buy from other manufacturers.

    • Unless regulators require something else, they will make it possible to turn the self driving features off, if their customers demand it. But some people are lazy. I for example prefer to write posts on slashdot over having to focus on urban traffic. So a self driving car is something I look forward to. They just don't want to become foxconn if it turns out that most of the people are lazy, or if regulators suddenly require each car to include safety features that are so strict that only google and apple ca

      • I love to drive, but if I were offered a chauffeur for the boring daily commute why would I turn that down?
        • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

          You might if the chauffeur was a braindead idiot with crappy vision.

          • True. Thank goodness we'll be getting a chauffeur that can literally see in all directions at the same time using vision, lidar, and radar, who's attention never wavers, and can react to unexpected events about 1000x faster than a human. And oddly enough, you don't really need to be all that intelligent to drive a car... just very specialized.

            • nah... remember... if you're going to be a car person or a gun person (amazing how those seem to go hand in hand) then you have to make stupid comments about how they'll never be able to make a smart gun that works and that they'll never make a car which can drive itself as well as a human. They'll also never make a chess computer who can beat pretty much any huma...

              All I know is that my perfect world requires that all roads are completely and totally off limits to any car which doesn't self drive. It's too
              • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

                You should expand your viewpoint beyond the technology itself and include the 'few' people at the top who will control access to your centralized utopia. There are those of us wise enough to know that such systems have tendencies to trample those who don't quite march in lockstep. This is why they ultimately fail. We also know that resorting to name calling does not make an argument.

              • Once autonomous vehicles are on the road in significant numbers, we'll be able to see what the accident rates are. If they're a couple of orders of magnitude safer than manually-driven vehicles as I suspect they may be, we could see a significant push to remove non-autonomous vehicles from the road simply for safety reasons. But don't kid yourself - this is going to be a decades-long process. Also, the number of commercially available self-driving cars are still zero as of today, so let's not jump the gu

                • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

                  You forgot what'll happen when one of those now safer citizens falls off the treadmill and loses access to the transport system (for some artificially linked issue). I'd rather not relinquish control over my mobility until we work the control freakery out of our culture. It demonstrates a level of insecurity far more dangerous than any human controlled vehicle.

                  I will never understand the enthusiasm for living under the rule of risk adverse soccer mom mentality.

                  • I fail to see how an autonomous vehicle somehow means the surrender of our personal liberty. The government RIGHT NOW can deny you access to a license to drive. What changes when the car can now drive itself? If anything, it seems like autonomous vehicles will allow even greater personal freedom and autonomy, because at some point these systems will be so effective that non-licensed passengers will be able to use these vehicles as well. Besides, for the foreseeable future, people will still be able to d

                • I think there might be roads where you are not allowed to drive manual cars. Starting first with lanes that are for autonomous vehicles. Also I expect tax breaks for autonomous vehicles.

              • "All I know is that my perfect world requires that all roads are completely and totally off limits to any car besides mine."

                FIFY. (And yes, that is my perfect world too)

              • > or a gun person (amazing how those seem to go hand in hand) then you have to make stupid comments about how they'll never be able to make a smart gun that works

                Your ignorance of the topic is glaring. I'm making this post via my smart phone. Often, as I post on Slashdot, my smart phone suddenly hides the keyboard, so that as I begin to press the "h" or "j" keys, they vanish and the press instead goes to the Submit button which was underneath. I end up posting half a post because the smarts in my smar

                • To illustrate a bit further for those who don't "get it", virtually every gun made today, from pistols to machine guns, is a John Moses Browning design. People have tweaked things here and there, adjusted the size and shape, but they mechanisms for all types of guns are John Browning's designs. Second place is Gaston Glock, for figuring out which plastic could be used to make a frame for a Browning breach-lock design.

                  Basically, John Browning is the one guy we trust with our lives. We trust his designs. W

            • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

              It still has the self awareness and understanding of a rock which negates those advantages.

        • Roads are for utility and transportation. Tracks are for fun. Cars are basically weapons and if we can improve the world by replacing human drivers we should NEVER hesitate. If all cars were required in 20 years to be self driving on the road then we can avoid traffic jams, improve safety, decrease harm to the environment by reducing the need for studded tires which damage roads, improve fuel efficiency, etc... humans are just not good enough to drive.

          That said neither are computers for the moment... but th
        • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          I agree totally. Or if I am doing a very long drive and I start getting really tired. It would be nice to simply turn it on auto and rest for a bit before resuming control without having to park. Also, for night driving, I'd probably be happy to let the computer with the radar take over.

          That doesn't mean I want to be a mere passenger in my own car all the time, but it seems to me that there are plenty of good uses for autonomous cars while not completely removing the ability to drive them yourself.

          I don'

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Sorry grandpa this is not for your generation, your out of touch. you probably complain that people use facebook and cell phones. We don't even call them cell phones anymore.
    • There is driving, then there is slamming on your brakes every 15 feet in LA traffic. I would much rather be productive and/or preserve my sanity by letting the car handle that particular level of hell and save the fahrvergnügen for less urban environs.
    • by SirSlud ( 67381 )

      100% of other drivers can't wait for BMW drivers to just be passengers.

    • Years ago, they invented this thing called the "On/Off" switch. You probably have similar things in your house for controlling lights and such.

      I have a little roadster which is fun to drive--in certain environments. But it's annoying to drive in other environments. I would have no problem with a car that is flexible enough that I can say, "Hey, car, drive me home" and yet, if I was up in the mountains and the road was pretty empty, I could say, "Hey, car, I'll take it from here" and have a fun drive.

      The

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @09:50PM (#51641259)

    Google is about to get some serious competition in the self-driving car race from none other than BMW

    Google has been working on this AI problem since probably 2008 or so and been road-testing self-driving cars since 2011. As far as I know BMW has no development at all on this concept.

    What makes BMW think they have some great insight into the artificial intelligence problem, that will make it possible for them to emerge as a serious autonomous vehicle competitor today, if Google is already 5 years ahead in learning and development of the software, data collection, and STILL does not believe their fully autonomous vehicle can be fully productized until 2020?

    Even Tesla has a head start on BMW.

    Autonomous driving is not a simple solved problem. It's not like you can just slap a clone together and have it out within a year or something....

    Research and development is an extremely long process, there, and as far as I know BMW's R and D is focused on building cars.... they probably don't have people who even know about robotics, let-alone AI for the self-driving problem.

    • by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @10:07PM (#51641353) Homepage

      I say this as somebody who owns and loves BMWs... they suck ass at software. They can't even get things like their console information / entertainment system to be reasonably bug-free, so how the hell do they think they can actually do difficult and important stuff?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        My biggest beef with BMWs is that if you disconnect or replace the battery, the car has to be towed to a dealership to get the battery "registered". No registration, engine will refuse to start. The dealer claims it is to protect the circuitry from overvoltage as non-approved 12 volt batteries can be dangerous.

      • I say this as somebody who owns and loves BMWs... they suck ass at software.

        They suck at console/entertainment software (e.g., idrive).

        .
        BMW does quite well with car control software (e.g., the all-wheel drive anti-slip software).

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday March 05, 2016 @11:50AM (#51643641) Homepage Journal

          BMW does quite well with car control software (e.g., the all-wheel drive anti-slip software).

          They don't do that without help. They don't make the hardware that handles that stuff — just like Audi and Daimler, they buy all of that stuff from Bosch. They also don't write the software, they only make customizations to it and even that is assisted by Bosch engineers. Or in the case of transmissions, ZF engineers. Nearly all German cars are based around a ZF transmission. Then again, it often seems like practically all cars worldwide are using a ZF transmission now — they make the 8- and 9-speed automatics that everyone and their mom is putting into a car now. Automakers are still making their own small manual transmissions in some cases, but almost nobody seems to be making their own automatic that isn't a CVT. A handful of automakers do that. Honda famously makes their own automatic transmissions, which infamously suck. Ford, too. Transmission shop owners love Ford to little bitty pieces. GM seems to be using the ZF8 and ZF9 now...

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @10:22PM (#51641425)

      The German companies do it a bit different than American companies, they pool resources for the common R&D good. It's why they had stuff like CAN bus while Ford and GM were all developing their own unique busses.

      BMW, VW and Benz all have a lot of research into this. I sat in on a grad seminar given by VW engineers back in 2010 on lane change obstacle avoidance. They certainly have the IP already, even if they aren't announcing it state side. They even have ISO standards for how to test obstacle avoidance: ISO 3888-2:2011 defines the dimensions of the test track for a closed-loop, severe lane-change manoeuvre test for subjectively determining the obstacle avoidance performance of a vehicle, one specific part of vehicle dynamics and road-holding ability. It is applicable to passenger cars as defined in ISO 3833 and light commercial vehicles up to a gross vehicle mass of 3,5 t. [iso.org]

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      I had a BMW and Benz rental in 2012 that had the auto stop feature that is just now starting to show up in American cars. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/v... [psu.edu]

      If there is any group of car companies that is going to give you autonomous driving with manual over ride it's going to be the German ones. German drivers also have a different mentality towards driving. Driving falls into two categories, either you have to do it and you can automate it or you want to do it and you don't want to automate it. I would say of my driving there's a good 80/20 split. 80% of the time I'd like the car to just get me somewhere but 20% of the time I do want an autobahn experience.

      Just because you don't think BMW hasn't done any research into self driving cars doesn't mean they haven't. It is an incredibly long process and Germans have had an ISO standard for testing it since 2011 as well. The TÜV doesn't mess around when it comes to safety or testing and I trust anything they verify much more than the DOT.

    • Using that logic, any company that wanted to design and build an airplane after 1913 was a complete fool and was wasting their time and money.
    • if you throw enough money at something you'll probably get results
    • Here Maps (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Look at Here Maps (maps.here.com) , and there offline app navigation. Really you'd think nobody could compete with Google maps, and yet Here is far superior.
      Less worthless bells and whistles and noise and more the "where is X" fundamentals of maps.

      BMW has shown self driving prototypes since 2011, European cars already have features like lane follow, auto park, sign recognition, collision avoidance and so on, so they're already rolling out key components in existing cars.

      My expectation from BMW is that it wi

    • by igny ( 716218 )
      I agree that Google is a pioneer in developing this technology. I would disagree that it would take years for others to catch up. For one thing, they do not have to repeat all Google's mistakes.

      Having said that, Google is going what in my opinion a government should be doing, that is, finance a research into a technology that has a potential to pay off many years later. I am not saying it is bad, I think it is nice of Google to spend money that they may not be able to get back for years if not ever.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Many of the EU auto makers have been sinking massive amounts of R&D into this, but i did sign NDAs... They are making announcements because they are getting ready to show you something. No automakers wants to be left without some IP/Patent/Whatever to bring to the table and not be left out in the cold. They see the writing on the wall. In 20 years you won't be allowed to drive on public roads. Take it to the race track.
      • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

        In 20 years you won't be allowed to drive on public roads. Take it to the race track.

        Somehow I doubt that. Even if we assume that in 20 years every new car is capable of driving autonomously, the fact will remain that every autonomous car design will have been developed and trained for use in an environment with human drivers present, and therefore will be perfectly capable of sharing the road with human drivers.

        Combine that with the large contingent of car enthusiasts who will give up their steering wheels only when you pry them from their cold dead hands -- consider how the NRA feels abo

        • You forget one important difference... We can price (almost) all meatbag drivers off the road because the pieces are already there.

          Want to drive on public roads? You need compulsory 3rd party insurance and pay government special levies. Every year insurance companies and government double the price for human drivers as their comparative risk keeps going up compared to autonomous vehicles that will only keep improving.

          We can also inconvenience them off the road...

          Want to use that new expressway? Sorry autono

          • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

            Every year insurance companies and government double the price for human drivers as their comparative risk keeps going up compared to autonomous vehicles that will only keep improving.

            I don't follow. Why would the presence of safer autonomous vehicles make the cost of traditional auto insurance rise?

            I can see why having a safer vehicle would make insuring that safer vehicle cheaper -- I don't see why it would make insuring other vehicles more expensive, since they would not be any less safe than they were previously.

            • I don't follow. Why would the presence of safer autonomous vehicles make the cost of traditional auto insurance rise?

              Because automobile insurance is a scam. It's legally mandated, yet they don't have to give you any justification for their pricing: the formulas they use to determine your premiums are trade secrets. You should never have to guess where money is going when you purchase a legally mandated product or service.

              Old people will lobby and/or vote with their feet in order to get the cost of autonomous vehicle insurance down to a minimum. Young people who can't afford autonomous vehicles and people who want to drive

              • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

                Because automobile insurance is a scam.

                That's not a convincing argument -- even if we assume for the sake of argument that every insurance company is greedy and unscrupulous, competition between insurance companies keeps a cap on insurance prices.

                I don't see how the introduction of autonomous cars would change that dynamic.

                Old people will lobby and/or vote with their feet in order to get the cost of autonomous vehicle insurance down to a minimum.

                Pure speculation.

              • Insurance may be a scam, but its wonderfully capitalistic. They look at the payouts that they have to do, first brought forth by blood sucking lawyers, then payouts for body shops/write offs and then tack on a nice healthy profit. If either payout increases, then rates go up. If payouts decrease then prices stay the same. Simple. Lloyds of London expects a 30% profit. No secret.
    • Google is about to get some serious competition in the self-driving car race from none other than BMW

      Google has been working on this AI problem since probably 2008 or so and been road-testing self-driving cars since 2011. As far as I know BMW has no development at all on this concept.

      BMW along with several other manufactorers like Mercedes and Volvo, have been working on this A LOT longer than Google, and already have cars on the road. Several high-end cars have had self-driving features for years, just waiting for it to be legal to activate on high ways.

    • Google has been working on this AI problem since probably 2008 or so and been road-testing self-driving cars since 2011. As far as I know BMW has no development at all on this concept.

      BMW has been making cars since 1916. How long has Google been making them? How hard is it for established manufacturers to get the tens of thousands of parts in a road car 100% correct at design time? Google is not infallible. If they do indeed decide to mass manufacture their own cars (which I doubt) it will take years and billions of miles to iron out all the issues. Engineering isn't software.

      Say you're BMW's favourite kind of customer: you buy new, all the gimmicks, change your car for another BMW every

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Presumably they'll do what Google, Apple, FB and the rest of the tech-cartels do when they want to muscle in on something: buy it in.

        The autonomous technology does not exist, and you cannot just buy it. Also, hiring more developers than Google does not get you a higher quality AI technology faster. You cannot also get a viable autonomous vehicle AI technology just by developing a bunch of independent pieces by different developers such as "obstacle avoidance" and trying to string them together ran

  • Full disclaimer:

    I enjoy driving.

    Its a little difficult to imagine just being a passenger in my own car. In fact, if as so many slash dotters allude to the nirvana like state of incredible safety brought about by our autonomous auto overlords, and auto accidents will be reduced to zero or near enough to it, wouldn't it make much more sense to not have any private automobiles? autonomous mass transit, and not much else.

    I mean it will smell like vomit and piss and bad body odor, but hey, it'll be perfec

    • Unless you have rack-and-pinion steering and a cable that goes to a fuel valve, you *already* are a passenger...

      • Unless you have rack-and-pinion steering and a cable that goes to a fuel valve, you *already* are a passenger...

        So Ican sit in the passenger seat and all cars today that meet your requirements will take me wherever I want to go? Who knew?

      • you insensitive clod!

        • Ditto. In fact, until just recently I was driving a 35-year-old car. Still am, when I need to pick up parts for my 20-year-old car (actually only 19, but close enough.)

      • We have 2 cars, like many people, and one is a nice comfortable, boring car that holds a lot of stuff, and is very useful. The other is a toy, an old VW Beetle, converted to electric, that's faster than snot, that we use on sunny days, just for fun. If I had a self driving car, I'd replace that boring thing, and still have my toy.
      • You're the program in the machine, where as before you were the program and the actuator. Now the car does the steering and braking for you - at your command through a mechanical/digital interface.

        If you try being a passenger in one without a driver, you're going to break yourself. Don't do that. Let the self driving cars do that for you when they gain sapience.

      • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

        Sometimes it doesn't pay to be "clever".

        Passenger: A person who travels in a conveyance, such as a car or train, without participating in its operation.

        Driver != passenger by most definitions, sorry.

      • Unless you have rack-and-pinion steering and a cable that goes to a fuel valve, you *already* are a passenger...

        My W126 300SD has more steering feel than my D2 A8 in spite of having recirculating ball steering while the A8 has rack and pinion, both with hydraulic power assist. You're talking a load of dingo's kidneys.

    • I enjoy driving as well (even if it's my 2013 fly-by-wire Honda Accord), but I like the cruising/slaloming along Route 101 kind of driving, not the sudden start/stop of I-5 through LA or Seattle.
    • To me, it depends on how many do what as to whether it "makes more sense."

      "Makes more sense" is a personal thing. For example, I hate enclosed vehicles. I have owned one of them in my entire life and I hated driving it. I love convertibles and I won't buy a non-convertible. It's off the table, period. Yes, this means I might pay more for a vehicle that I want to be in. I could buy an enclosed econobox car that gets better gas mileage, can't accelerate worth a damn, and is uncomfortable to ride in for

      • To me, it depends on how many do what as to whether it "makes more sense."

        "Makes more sense" is a personal thing. For example, I hate enclosed vehicles. I have owned one of them in my entire life and I hated driving it. I love convertibles and I won't buy a non-convertible.

        Like myself and motorcycles. A motorcycle is more like flying than flying an airplane. The unobstructed view, the wind. Only thing missing is the altitude.

        Dangerous? I suppose. I don't care though. It's that much fun.

        See, everybody seems to want to make this jump. "Oh, da gubmint won't let us own our own vehicles anymore! We'll have to join this socialist collective where da gubmint will watch everywhere we go!"

        I'm certainly not doing that. I do suspect that insurance rates might be interesting, relegating archaic vehicles to the very wealthy.

        Then again, I would love to see a collectivist hive try to tell motorcycle drivers they are part of the past.

        Suppose the vast majority of people decide they prefer to be driven around by a machine while texting their friends rather than having to spend 20 minutes "off-line" while driving a car. So companies decide there isn't enough of a market for people who prefer to drive themselves and stop selling cars which you can drive or they make fewer "drivable" cars and, therefore, have to charge more in order to recoup their costs, pricing you out of the market.

        Well, hopefully the dimbulbs who are so addic

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@@@poetic...com> on Friday March 04, 2016 @11:53PM (#51641799)

    "...delivering only the metal bodies for them."

    No, they won't even be doing that- Google & Uber will not want their metal body or their programming expertise. The mystique of the quality German car quickly evaporates when you own one or crunch the numbers on the cost of purchase, maintenance, parts and accessories.

    I'm on my third BMW motorcycle; each new purchase 20+ years after the previous. During that time I've owned a couple dozen other motorcycles. Like the Harley, BMW motorcycles have made only minor changes over the last 100 years, and like the Harley they still can't get it right. Meanwhile the Japanese can snap their fingers and come up with a totally new design that is almost flawless and it's relatively affordable.

    It's not just motorcycles; Consumer Reports can't find a single excellent car in the 2015 BMW lineup. It's sad, I'd love to own a vehicle that actually lived up to such a reputation but they don't seem to come from Europe or America.

    • "...delivering only the metal bodies for them."

      No, they won't even be doing that- Google & Uber will not want their metal body or their programming expertise.

      Do you have any idea what it costs to stamp out auto body? Do you have any idea what it costs to make a "cheap" carbon fiber car? BMW is literally the only corporation on the planet which currently has the tooling to do that, which they developed for the i3. Nothing prevents other automakers from doing similar things, although BMW probably has a shitpile of related patents which may in fact impede such efforts.

      Further, the body in white is the best part of a German car. Outside of Germany, only Cadillac (!)

    • The mystique of the quality German car quickly evaporates when you own one or crunch the numbers on the cost of purchase, maintenance, parts and accessories

      I guess all those millions of BMWs I see on the road must be a figment of my imagination then.

  • Isn't Apple, Kia, and Samsung also getting into this biz, along with some no-names? It's premature to assume it will expand fast. It's a very new, untested, and immature market. We had the Dot Com bubble, maybe this is the Dot Car bubble.

    These co's should perhaps split the load via co-ownership to divide the risk, yet be enough in the game to take advantage of a SDC boom if one actually happens.

  • Google has some fucking amazingly talented engineers with a love for software and physics and engineering working on this problem. They have people who consider it theirs life's goal to reduce traffic accidents.

    They aren't working to stay ahead of the competition. They are working to build the best self-driving software possible. They are so far ahead of everyone else that it's just silly, and they're still working constantly to get to this goal faster.

    Why would you want to invest in that, BMW? Just wai

  • sigh, I thought that at /. it's all about diversity on the front page, it's sad that you guys didn't give the link to http://sdcarnews.com/bmw-looks... [sdcarnews.com] (
  • by jools33 ( 252092 ) on Saturday March 05, 2016 @05:01AM (#51642649)

    So its BMW's programming team verses Google's, I know where I'm placing my money...

  • I can't wait (Score:4, Interesting)

    by golgotha007 ( 62687 ) on Saturday March 05, 2016 @07:43AM (#51643003)

    for driverless cars to become popular. I'll be able to take advantage of their dialed-up safety protocols and be able to cut my way through traffic faster with less risk.

  • BMW has lost its driver's car mojo, so maybe they need to move to something else. When a Camaro SS creams an M4 (latest motortrend comparison review) they are doing something very wrong. I've heard for a couple of years now BMW steering has gone numb. Now the exhaust note sounds like a blender and a sloppy clutch/shifter. Seriously.

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