Another car maker is joining the growing list of companies carrying out autonomous vehicle trials in Israel. By the end of this year, German manufacturer BMW is expected to start operating a fleet of autonomous test vehicles here. The trials will start at the same time as BMW officially opens its Israeli R&D center. The center was announced earlier this year, and will start operating officially in the second half of the year.
The German press reports that the move is part of a wider plan by BMW to accelerate trials of its autonomous vehicle platform, to gather and analyze data from more than five million kilometers of driving in various parts of the world in various driving scenarios. BMW is preparing to launch a production vehicle with level 3-4 autonomous capabilities (travel without driver intervention within restricted conditions) in late 2021.
The trial will comprise 140 vehicles around the world, which compares with 70 at present, and will be carried out in areas where BMW has R&D bases, among them the West Coast of the US, China, and Israel as well. The trial will probably be carried out on autonomous vehicles based on BMW's 7 series cars known in Germany as robotaxis, that is, vehicles that can carry passengers to their destinations like public transport on fixed routes without driver intervention.
In the past two years, BMW has already been operating some 7 series autonomous test vehicles in Mobileye's trial fleet. Now, however, the trial will involve a substantially larger fleet, probably amounting to dozens of vehicles. Unlike Volkswagen, which has announced its intention of creating a commercial transportation service in Israel, BMW will operate its fleet for research purposes only.
BMW joins a list of companies carrying out autonomous vehicle trials in Israel or that plan to do so. Among the trials is a joint project of Volkswagen, Champion Motors and Mobileye; trial Cadillac and Chevrolet autonomous vehicles operated by General Motors' R&D center in Israel; and autonomous vehicles of Russian company Yandex.
It is still not clear whether BMW's partner Mobileye will have an active role in the trials in Israel. Mobileye stated in response to the report: "Mobileye's technology is in all BMW's development vehicles for an autonomous vehicle as part of their existing collaboration."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 1, 2019
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