BMW "i" division to work on self-driving cars |

Automotive

Published on June 19th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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BMW “i” division to work on self-driving cars

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BMW has transformed its “i” division into a development center for self-driving cars, R&D chief Klaus Froehlich said, in a major strategic shift for the unit previously focused on making a family of lightweight electric vehicles.

While Tesla’s Model 3 will hit showrooms in 2017, and as rivals Porsche and Audi are working on all-electric cars for release by 2019, the German carmaker appears to have put such cars on the back burner. Its next fully-electric car is not due until 2021.

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The company has changed tack after its only fully battery-powered car, the i3, failed to gain traction with the public, with only 25,000 sales last year. By contrast, Tesla has already received more than 370,000 orders for its Model 3.

Now, rather than seeking to match the likes of Tesla and Porsche with a new zero-emissions sports limousine for release within the next two years, its main focus will be on developing an electric car with the next generation of technology: autonomous driving.

As part of its autonomous driving push, BMW is hiring experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is also integrating the functions of existing computer driven assistance systems like cruise control, emergency braking, lane-keeping support and automatic parking.

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