C Chinese automakers are using the wave of new technologies such as electromobility and autonomous driving in order to be able to move forward in international competition. Brands like Nio and Byton are not only well funded financially, but have already gone public with promising concepts.
BMW is the first international manufacturer to receive a license to test self-driving cars from the Chinese authorities. The permit, known as the “Shanghai Intelligent Connected Autonomous Driving Test License”, enables BMW to test drive a route that is currently 5.6 kilometers in length in the urban area of the megacity. The road network designated for the tests is also to be expanded soon.
On a section of the motorway near the city of Chengdu, BMW has been testing level 3 autonomous driving since 2016. At this level, the car drives automatically in certain situations, for Example on the highway. However, the driver is always obliged to take control in an emergency or if the computer system in the vehicle breaks down.
Level 4 on Shanghai's streets
In Shanghai, BMW wants the next level testing of autonomous driving, level 4. Here, too, pedals and steering wheel are still present in the car. The control elements can, however, be stowed away to save space when not in use, for example by moving them into the cockpit. The driver only intervenes directly in the driving process in certain situations - even if he feels like taking over the direction.
BMW has set up a team of 60 experts in Shanghai for the tests. The test drives are started by two appropriately modified BMW 7 Series. The fleet is expected to grow to seven cars by the end of 2018.
Dr. Martin Sautter, Senior Vice President, BMW Group Development China, is pleased: “It is a great honor for us to be the first international car manufacturer to receive a test license to test autonomous driving on the road in China. With the highest safety standards, we will continue to advance the development of autonomous driving in order to make a contribution to more safety and comfort in public transport. ”
The tests in Shanghai are catching up on around 30,000 kilometers of automated driving to date the road and 200,000 kilometers in driving simulators from BMW.
BMW has one in the capital BeijingAnother development site opened. With the new offices, the number of engineers the automaker employs in China will increase by 200 to 1,100. Up to 70 test vehicles are to be coordinated there, which will cover a total of 5 million kilometers per year. In addition to Beijing, BMW also has offices in Shanghai and Shenyang.
Mercedes is testing in Beijing
In the capital, BMW employees could encounter self-driving Mercedes V-Class vehicles on their commute. The Stuttgart-based company has received approval from the local authorities to test autonomous cars according to Level 4 in Beijing.
Daimler developed the software used in the test vehicles together with Baidu Apollo. In addition to the cars, the test drivers, who are always on board to intervene in an emergency, should also receive special training.