BMW, the First Global Carmaker to Test Self-Driving Vehicles in China

When talking about autonomous vehicles, BMW is not exactly the first name that pops into one’s head. But that doesn’t mean the carmaker is not working on such technologies.
BMW to test 7 Series autonomous cars in China 1 photo
Photo: BMW
Taking the long route towards a driverless future, BMW has let other companies take the fall for the initial setbacks that come with every new technology. But, as advancements in this field are made on a monthly basis, the Germans decided it’s time to up the ante.

On Wednesday, BMW announced it had become the first international car builder to get a permit to operate autonomous vehicles in China.

BMW will begin testing self-driving cars in Shanghai at a yet unspecified date. To set up the test program, BMW created a team that includes 60 experts in autonomous driving. The team would gather relevant data based on actual traffic and then use it to train machine learning algorithms.

Testing of the cars would be done in a facility covering 5.6 km (3.5 miles). The vehicles themselves are 7 Series models, two of which would begin operation this month. An additional seven cars are to be added by the end of the year.

“Now, it is a great honor to be the first international vehicle manufacturer to obtain an autonomous road test license in China,” said Martin Sautter, BMW research, and development vice president.

“With the highest safety standards, we will rigorously promote the local development of Autonomous Driving and strive to achieve a safer, more efficient and more convenient transportation system.”

In recent months, the efforts made by BMW to become more visible in this new field have increased. The carmaker announced in April the opening of its new tech campus in Unterschleißheim, Germany, that will be in charge with creating new technologies in the area of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analysis.

Later that same month, through the BMW I Ventures division, the carmaker announced an investment in Sweden-based company tech company Mapillary. The company owns the world’s largest street-level imagery dataset, containing 260 million images that have been shared by individuals, companies, cities, governments, and NGOs.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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