German car giants Daimler and BMW have announced a “long-term strategic cooperation” around self-driving cars that will see the duo collaborating to bring new automated driving technology to market by the mid-2020s.
In an announcement today, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler and BMW — which operates a number of brands, including Mini and Rolls-Royce — revealed plans to develop next-generation technologies for driver-assistance systems, parking, and automated driving on highways up to SAE level 4.
It has become increasingly clear that getting self-driving cars to market is a problem bigger than any one company can manage on its own, which is why we’ve seen a growing number of partnerships — often between rivals. Volkswagen and Ford are already exploring codeveloping autonomous and electric cars; BMW is working with Fiat Chrysler and Intel; SoftBank and Toyota are in cahoots to develop car services that rely on self-driving technology; and the Renault-Nissan alliance is partnering with Google. Countless other automaker and technology partnerships are permeating the burgeoning autonomous driving realm, as well.
Despite their rivalry, Daimler and BMW have a history of working together to keep apace with younger technology upstarts. Last year, the companies revealed they were to merge their ride-hailing and car-sharing units to help stave off incumbents such as Uber, and last week they announced a $1.15 billion joint investment to boost urban mobility services. Back in 2016, the duo formed part of a consortium to acquire Nokia’s Here mapping unit for $3 billion — a move very much designed to ensure that they have sufficient location technologies to keep Google at arm’s length.
By pooling their collective resources, Daimler and BMW want to ensure they are not left behind by other players in the self-driving vehicle sphere, including Google’s sister company, Waymo.
“Combining the key expertise of our two companies will boost our innovative strength and speed up the spread of this technology,” said Klaus Fröhlich, who heads up BMW’s board of development.
Safety will be a key factor in determining how quickly autonomous vehicles make it onto roads, and Daimler considers this collaboration pivotal to ensuring safe deployment of its self-driving cars.
“Our top priority is safety,” added Ola Källenius, who serves as member of the board of management at Daimler. “Instead of individual, standalone solutions, we want to develop a reliable overall system that offers noticeable added value for customers. Working with the right partners, we want to make significant advances in enhancing the performance of this technology and bring it safely on the road.”
In short, combining their collective smarts should go some way toward helping both companies get up to speed with their development of self-driving cars.
It’s worth noting here that the two companies already have separate autonomous car partnerships and programs in play, and they said that this latest collaboration won’t have any impact on their other initiatives. Moreover, the two firms said that in their push to create a “scalable platform for automated driving,” they are open to working with additional technology companies and automotive manufacturers.