BMW and Mercedes-Benz autonomous driving partnership on hold
22 June 2020
22 June 2020
BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz have reached a joint decision to put their cooperation on the development of autonomous driving technology on hold. The two carmakers have instead agreed to concentrate on their own existing development paths, which may also include working with current or new partners.
The shared work may be resumed at a later date, with both manufacturers emphasising their compatibility in terms of safety and customer benefits in the field of autonomous driving. However, neither company has so far given any indication as to when this might be.
First announced in February 2019, the strategic cooperation was hoped to be a long-term arrangement, with the aim of making next-level technologies widely available by 2024. These advancements were touted to include driver-assistance systems, autonomous driving on highways and autonomous parking (all to SAE Level 4 Automation).
However, the two carmakers were unable to hold detailed expert discussions or talk to suppliers about technological roadmaps until the contract was signed last year. Eventually, both sides came to the same conclusion that due to the expense involved in creating a shared technological platform, as well as the current business and economic conditions, especially in the wake of covronavirus, the timing simply is not right for the implementation of the cooperation.
′Our expertise complements that of the BMW Group very well, as our successful collaborations have proved,’ said Markus SchÃ¤fer, member of the board of management of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz. ′Next to decarbonisation, digitalisation is a central strategic pillar for Mercedes-Benz. To prepare for the future challenges of a rapidly-changing environment, we are currently also sounding out other possibilities with partners outside the automotive sector.’
The future of joint efforts
Now the manufacturers will be working separately on current generations of highly-autonomous technologies. However, cooperation in the companies’ remaining fields of work, does look set to continue. In 2019, Daimler and BMW pooled their mobility services in a joint venture under the umbrella of the Now family. Preceding this in 2015, the two companies joined Audi in acquiring the location and technology business Here, which has a broad shareholder structure. It was hoped the development of automated driving technologies would come into play in the world of shared transport, however, this looks to be on hold for now.
′We have systematically further developed our technology and scalable platform with partners like Intel, Mobileye, FCA and Ansys,’ said Klaus Fröhlich, member of the board of management of BMW Group, responsible for development. ′Our current technology generation offers very strong, sustainable potential: With extremely powerful sensors and computing power, our robust modular system puts us in an excellent position to offer our customers what they need for many years.’
The news of BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s cooperation breaking down falls into contrast with other developments in the automotive industry. Toyota has been investing in technological relationships, VW and Ford finalised details of their collaboration and the German manufacturing group also announced it is working with firms from China to the US to develop EV technology.