In a joint statement, Mercedes and BMW have announced the end to their partnership in working on self-driving automobile technology. This cooperative was only formed last year and was supposed to be a long-term project. Both have said that the decision was made together and the split it “mutual and amicable.”
There are several factors that have led to the untimely end of the partnership. In the statement the companies point to the fact that developing a shared autonomous vehicle platform was a more complex and expensive task than they had anticipated.
While this may be true, massive automakers like these German titans would have been more capable than anyone to pull it off. There is always the possibility that differences in opinion made the working relationship hard, or that they realise they will become even larger rivals in the future when it comes to automated driving solutions and want to go at it in their own ways.
Others point to the project being too ambitious at such an early stage. They initially announced that they aim selling self-driving cars that can handle highway journeys and automatic parking on their own by the year 2024. This is also known as Level 4 Autonomy. The likes of Ford, Toyota and even Uber has said in recent years that it will still be a significant amount of time before self-driving cars are a regular part of our roads. This is also driven by customer sentiment – recent studies have found that drivers are still generally unenthused and untrusting of self-driving technologies.
“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 AG, 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.”