The autonomous future will cause major disruption

At BMW Australia’s range day last Friday, members of the motoring press were gathered to drive the full fleet of BMW, Mini and BMW Motorrad products, and spend some time with BMW Australia CEO Mark Werner. Werner had some thoughts on BMW’s future in a self-driving world, and a strong message to send to the Australian government on its lack of support for hybrid and electric low-emission vehicles. Here’s a partial transcript.

Where are you at with autonomous driving, and where does a prestige brand like BMW fit in a future self-driving world?

That’s a very interesting subject. As you might have seen, we’ve recently announced a joint venture with Intel and MobilEye. Mobileye will provide the necessary camera systems for our vehicles, and Intel brings the necessary processors on the software and the hardware side in order to further boost the autonomous driving technology in our vehicles.

The interesting thing is, those cars already exist. We’re not talking about five or 10 or 15 years down the road, those cars already exist, and as we speak they’re already doing some extensive test driving – mainly in Europe, in Germany close to our R&D centers – but those cars exist, and it’s a matter of time as far as legislation is concerned, and in particular insurance policy, when these cars can actually be launched.

But we’re working very hard towards a goal with the rollout of the BMW i-next model, as we call it, to launch autonomous driving by the beginning of the next decade. So it’s all happening. And it’s quite exciting, I have to say.

We believe that the industry model is going to change substantially, and that’s why our vision is to become the premium mobility provider. And that basically means we’ll provide a mobility solution for our customer. You don’t necessarily have to own a car in the future any more, but when you have a mobility need, you’ll be able to call a vehicle and a car will pick you up.

So the autonomous technology will enable that, and that’s quite exciting, going forward. We’re talking about probably five years from now.

Will sales reduce? Not necessarily, but the ownership model will change. It’s not necessary that you will have to own or buy a vehicle, you’ll be a position to pick up a phone and call a mobile service provider, and a car will arrive. We will definitely see a substantial change in the ownership model, and what that will look like, the future will tell us, and the customers will tell us.