Automotive

Published on June 12th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Manufacturer of the “ultimate driving machine” turns to driverless cars

After a century building what it calls the “ultimate driving machine,” BMW Group 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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There are now plans for a completely overhauled company, where half the R&D staff will be computer programmers, competing with the likes of Google parent Alphabet to build the brains for self-driving cars. As a high-tech world opens new business opportunities, BMW sees its competitors as including firms like Internet taxi service Uber and sales website Truecar.

BMW will have to ramp up quickly, striking deals with a new network of suppliers, many from outside the traditional automotive industry. Today, software engineers make up just 20% of the 30,000 employees, contractors and supplier staff that work on research and development for BMW.

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BMW has plans to get to a ratio of 50:50 within five years, with the need to get manpower equivalent to another 15,000 to 20,000 people from partnerships with suppliers and elsewhere.

As software becomes as important as hardware, another cultural shift could see BMW free up resources by licensing out technology produced by its own engineers, such as drivetrains for electric and hybrid vehicles. Welcome more ‘I’ Series cars to BMW showrooms.

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