By on March 17, 2016

2016 BMW i8 Hybrid Exterior-006

BMW Group is laying out its game plan for the future, and it includes a lot of new electric vehicles.

Beyond the marketing buzzwords, there’s much similarity between BMW’s plan, released yesterday, and those of so many other automakers: building high-tech convenience and connectivity into their vehicles, diversifying their electric offerings, developing autonomous driving technology, and making the customer feel extra special.

The immediate effect on BMW’s rolling stock will be an expanded “i” range of all-electric or plug-in hybrid models, starting with a convertible version of the i8 and a longer-ranged version of the i3 by the end of this year.

A plug-in Mini is the next new model on BMW’s radar. In total, the automaker wants to have seven models in the “i” range.

In addition to gas and electric, BMW plans to continue development of hydrogen fuel cell technology in the hope that all three propulsion types can one day be applied to a single platform. It’s a move towards the adaptable architecture many automakers are pursuing.

While BMW’s “project i” tackles electric vehicle technology, “project i 2.0” is designed to mate that expertise with autonomous driving technology.

“Our focus is clear: we are securing the BMW Group’s position as technological market leader,” said Klaus Fröhlich, the board member responsible for development, in a statement.

“With project i 2.0 we will lead the field of autonomous driving. We will turn research projects into new kinds of industrial processes, bringing future technology onto the road.”

Key areas of focus will be digital maps, sensor technology, cloud technology and artificial intelligence. Some of the automaker’s early development of self-driving technology can be seen in the self-parking 7-series; new advancements will be added on as the technology becomes available on more models.

Like other automakers, all of BMW’s new technology isn’t necessarily going to be developed in-house. Through its BMW i Ventures group, the automaker plans to keep an eye on independent startups, investing in them if necessary in order to capitalize on certain products or emerging trends.

The development of mobility services will continue alongside vehicle technology.

Despite its pursuit of a connected, driverless future, the automaker plans to continue wringing efficiencies out of its internal combustion engines, while expanding those model lines.

Every business needs money to grow, and BMW says it knows where to find it: at the top end of the market. A planned premium SUV, the X7, is designed to meet public’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for ultra-luxury utility vehicles while delivering a high rate of return.

When you’re planning on changing the (driving) world, you have to be honest about where the funds will come from.

[Image: © Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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27 Comments on “BMW’s Game Plan: Connectivity, Autonomous Technology and a Whole Lot of Plug-ins...”


  • avatar

    The i8 has a cool exterior but an interior that looks worse than the vast majority of the other BMWs.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    From the “ultimate driving machine” to a vehicle that doesn’t need a driver. Depressing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I wish there was more distinction between AI/autonomous vehicles and EVs.

    The questions with EVs are pretty straight-forward: range, performance, infrastructure, payback, etc – similar to any ICE-powered vehicle.

    But the questions with autonomous vehicles are more behavior-related, and will lead to more hand-wringing than any topic related to EVs.

    It’s just easier to incorporate autonomous features into an EV than an ICE, I suppose, which only conflates the discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I can point you to the official government definitions for different types of autonomous vehicles. I use these levels in anything I write. For example, I think level 3 is pretty much here, but level 4 is far off.

      http://goo.gl/zYjHnl

      Here are the definitions:

      NHTSA defines vehicle automation as having five levels:

      No-Automation (Level 0): The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls – brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.

      Function-specific Automation (Level 1): Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.

      Combined Function Automation (Level 2): This level involves automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.

      Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.

      Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I know that its not as simple as what I am about to state but I dont get the desire for autonomous cars. Every argument I have read or heard on the internet is the same and still in my mind dosent compute. Catch a bus, call a taxi. If you fuking hate driving that much call Uber. But for Gods sake dont make this a standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Buses go where they want to go, when they want to go there. Useful only if their priorities happen to coincide with yours, or you don’t mind wasted time.

      Taxis (and Uber/Lyft are just gypsy cabs) may or may not show up when you call and will definitely require some wait time, inherently involve a second unpredictable human in the activity, and are an environment you can’t control (or necessarily retrieve if you leave something behind).

      The case for a personally owned autonomous vehicle is no different than the case for an automatic transmission or cruise control. You tell it what to do, and it takes care of the rest. Personal priorities.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The reality of it all is most street driving sucks

      Most people’s mileage is commuting in traffic. How is commuting any fun? Don’t get me wrong, I love driving, and my commute has its fun parts, but a lot of that fun comes at the expense of breaking the (generally unenforced) law. It’s also a good bit more restricting than an autonomous ride sharing program could be.

      For example I arrive at work about 30-40 minutes early to avoid traffic and get better parking. I schedule my lunchtime gym workout at an odd time for the same reason. In the winter the use of my garage is limited because I have to keep cars in it. Etc etc. So there is lost sleep, lost productivity and lost utility of my home.

      Not to mention lost $$$… I am sure autonomous ride sharing will be much cheaper for all than regular car ownership, which for me would mean more $$$ to spend on important things like track days and cars/bikes for said track days. So I don’t see the big deal. As a car enthusiast this would be a net win for me.

  • avatar
    wmba

    BMW’s game plan. Maketh not cars, but electronic doodads on wheels, and body styles of every shape and variety to fit every mood and niche.

    BMW – the Ultimate Electronic Machine.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      They don’t have much choice. Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Porsche and Chrysler finished the meaningful evolution of the car proper, a quarter century ago (LS, LC80, NSX, E30 or 36, Camcords and Civirollas, 993, Miata, Cummins engined pickup). Since then, it’s been largely a game of chasing one at best semi relevant trend or another.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    So what differentiates an expensive autonomous pod from a cheap autonomous pod? NVH? Brand “image”? Most of the tech will be mandated anyway so cars will become more and more alike.

    Exterior styling could play a role in the buying decision, but then again, most people will rent their car and abandon the notion of ownership pride altogether.

    There is a depressing future coming for car enthusiasts. Soon we’ll be like the minority who still go to horse races. The future won’t be very exciting. Maybe BTSR’s doing the right thing with his Hellcat…

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’ve been asking this question for years, and still haven’t found a good answer.

      I guess that’s why I haven’t bought a premium car. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      “So what differentiates an expensive autonomous pod from a cheap autonomous pod?”

      The cheap ones will serve non mutable advertisements based on everything google knows about you.

      The premium cars will collect data about you, but they won’t serve ads.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      Interior finishes? Leather vs. cloth? Size of the entertainment screen?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Is leather and a bigger screen worth thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars to you?

        For me, I like those things – but I’ve experienced them before, and they didn’t change my life. So the answers are “no” and “I’ll just bring my iPad”, respectively.

  • avatar

    To paraphrase The Graduate, two words were missing from BMW’s projection: Carbon fiber. BMW has invested at least a couple billion dollars into working with carbon fiber, something they see as essential to EVs. EVs need to be light to increase range, but batteries are heavy so the weight has to come out of the structure and components, hence the investment in CFRP.

  • avatar
    turf3

    How about making cars? You know, cars, that are at least as reliable as the cheapest Toyota. Not rolling video arcades.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Ageed.

      Beat Toyota at their own game is what it takes to make the case that I’d actually be getting a better car for more money.

      Otherwise, Mazda makes nice looking fun-to-drive cars for much less money. And Toyota makes more reliable cars for money.

      If I’m going to pay extra, I’m expecting more than what I’d get from Mazda.

      I’ve been looking for a the part where BMW makes a compelling value proposition for their “ultimate” driving machines.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I can only speak for me, but I’ve owned multiple BMWs to include the one my wife drives now. All have been very reliable. That and certainly far more rewarding than the cheapest Toyota.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I think the concept of the ownership of cars as we know it will die if autonomous cars catch on. For example, for the daily grind I don’t need to drive a Rolls Royce. But if I am going out on the town with wifey, I am willing to splurge on something nice, and it would be nice to not have to worry about a DUI after dinner with wine or whatever.

    So this idea that people will pay to own/insure/maintain a car when autonomous driving will enable ride sharing that is basically just as convenient is a little short sighted. Why would I buy a car when I can just have one come take me to and from work everyday? If I have to tow something I call for a truck. If I have to carry a bunch of people I can get a van or CUV. Etc etc. I hope BMW’s plan is short term.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    I for one do not appreciate the notion of an all-electric BMW. How is it supposed to leak oil or coolant?! No HPFP to flake out if there’s no gas to pump! No clutch means that the automatic adjustment and flywheel couterweights/springs can’t self-destruct.
    I mean, really, what are these things supposed to do, NOT break? This is horsesh!t.

  • avatar
    FOG

    I am not a black helicopter conspiracy guy, but I worry that at some point an autonomous car can be forced into driving a certain speed in a certain lane from a remote location. Hey, I should start working on an App for that. You drink too much? Download my app and I will have your car drive you home, for a nominal fee and access to your phone data…

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Focusing on the EV aspect of the above article, I really do not get the i3. At all. When Tesla finally proved there was a market for sexy high-performance luxury vehicles, I thought BMW would be all over that. I figured soon they’d be rolling out an electrified equivalent of the M5, or whatever. Gorgeous. Blazing fast. Makes you want it in an irrational way.

    Instead they gave us…the i3. As far as I can tell, it’s a slightly better version of the Nissan Leaf, for about $20K more, with a generous dollop of the funky-ugly science-experiment styling that all manufacturers firmly believe are what EV customers must surely want. (Why???)

    Is the “i” series of cars going to be BWM’s dork lineup?

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    They should turn their technological prowess toward figuring out how to keep the oil INSIDE the engine.


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