BMW To Roll Out Autonomous Car Technology Slowly

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BMW 650i xDrive wallpaper.
A BMW 650i xDrive two-door sedan. Camera: Samsung WB30F.

While automakers like Tesla have already deployed autonomous and semi-autonomous car technology, BMW has chosen to hold off on it for a while and gradually roll out partially autonomous technologies to conduct simpler tasks such as parking. They will eventually transition to autonomous parking without a driver, and eventually fully autonomous cars.

BMW 650i xDrive wallpaper.
A BMW 650i xDrive two-door sedan.
Camera: Samsung WB30F.

It isn’t because they don’t have the technology yet. The BMW 7 Series can already park itself while a driver is inside the car, BMW chief executive Harald Krüger told Handelsblatt. He also pointed out that BMW can already offer automated driving at speeds up to 74 MPH (120 km/h).

Is this the right move? Autonomous vehicle technology has been under development for many years, and it has progressed to the stage where each of Google’s self-driving cars clock 500 miles per week, their fleet has driven a combined 1,011,338 miles autonomously, and 1.8 million miles total. Despite that, their cars have only gotten into 12 accidents (probably because they’re not impatient or rushing).

That is the lifetime of 7 cars! Or the equivalent of a car getting into 1.7 accidents over its lifetime (assuming that it lasts 250,000 miles). Google claimed that none of the accidents were caused by their autonomous vehicles, which sounds convenient. However, given the nature of autonomous cars to drive defensively while human drivers get impatient and speed, run red lights, text while driving, and more — Google might be correct.

So, from a safety perspective, refraining from rushing is a good move. From a financial perspective: It might be a different story, as BMW needs to keep up with other automakers that are rushing to deploy their own autonomous vehicles.

Whichever it is, there are millions of people who could benefit from autonomous vehicle technology. I’ve seen so many people struggle to get around because they can’t drive due to disabilities, as well as people who would rather not be at the wheel.