BMW aiming to be ‘coolest’ ride-hailing company with autonomous car
BMW will start testing autonomous vehicles next year in Munich, as it strives to match the pace of ride-hailing companies – most notably Uber – who are investing billions in pay-per-use personal transport.
The German automaker is planning to start with around 40 self driving vehicles spread throughout Munich’s inner districts. If successful, the project will expand outwards and to other cities, BMW executives revealed in a statement on Friday.
“There is a trained test driver behind the wheel of every car,” Klaus Buettner, BMW’s Vice President in charge of Autonomous Driving said.
The explosion of Uber onto the scene has forced BMW to serious consider how autonomous cars could possibly assist them in their own efforts into pay-per-use transport.
Already, software and technology companies such as Lyft, Juno and Uber have completely invigorated the traditional industry model of selling cars, with their alternative to car ownership; using Smartphone based ride-hailing options.
The progress made by these companies has been so fast, that the traditional car companies have had their hands forced into developing their own ride-hailing schemes, and investing heavily in self-driving technology.
“Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving,” Tony Douglas, Head of Strategy for BMW’s mobility services said. “Once you dispense with the driver you have a licence to print money.”
BMW has already taken big steps as it expands into the market for car sharing by introducing pay-by-the-minute services like ReachNow in Seattle, Douglas said.
“We had 14,000 people sign up in 4 days, in a market already served by Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Car2go,” Douglas said.
“Someone else spent the money to educate the market and then we came in with a cool product. We will not be the largest, but we can be the coolest,” Douglas said.
BMW intends to use not just its expertise making premium vehicles, but also its ability to manufacture, own and manage fleets of premium vehicles.
“Uber and Lyft do not operate their own fleets of cars. Owning the fleet means you can make offers that Lyft and others are unable to provide. For example providing car sharing for a specific community only,” BMW’s Chief Executive Harald Krueger said.