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BMW, Intel, and Mobileye team up to test self-driving cars

Last year, BMW, Intel, and Mobileye announced a collaboration to develop technologies related to autonomous driving. The three companies are now shifting that collaboration into high gear, with plans to jointly test autonomous cars.

At a joint CES press conference, the three firms announced plans to put a fleet of approximately 40 autonomous BMW test vehicles on the road by the second half of 2017. The tests will help BMW achieve its goal of putting a self-driving car into production by 2021, and will develop a scaleable autonomous-driving platform that BMW, Intel, and Mobileye hope to market to other automakers.

Cars will be tested “under real traffic conditions,” BMW board member Klaus Frölich said in a press release. BMW will be in charge of driving dynamics, component integration, and will of course supply the cars. Intel will supply a computing platform, while Mobileye will offer its EyeQ5 processor, which processes and interprets images from a 360-degree camera system. Mobileye previously supplied cameras for Tesla’s Autopilot system, before the two companies parted ways.

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Mobileye will also create a “sensor fusion solution” that combines input from cameras and radar and lidar sensors to make a virtual model of the environment around the vehicle. Mobileye claims the algorithms it will deploy to allow vehicle systems to interpret the environment have a degree of artificial intelligence.

Lessons learned from the test program will be applied to the BMW iNext, the company’s planned autonomous production car for 2021. The iNext is also expected to have an electric powertrain, combining the expertise of BMW’s autonomous-driving program with the work of its “i” division for green cars. The car itself has been described as a flagship sedan, equivalent to the current BMW 7 Series.

If it can meet its deadline, BMW may be one of the first automakers to put a fully autonomous car on sale. Nissan and Tesla have discussed launching self-driving cars within a similar time frame, while Ford plans to debut a fully autonomous car for ridesharing services within the same year as the iNext’s launch.