BMW says will test autonomous vehicles in Munich next year as it seeks to keep up with ride-hailing firms like Uber because it eventually sees the technology as a “licence to print money”.
Reuters reports that the carmaker will have about 40 vehicles with self-driving functions in Munich’s inner city and then expand the project to other cities.
“Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving,” Tony Douglas, Head of Strategy for BMW’s mobility services said. “Once you dispense with the driver you have a license to print money.”
BMW has already made significant progress expanding into the market for car sharing by introducing pay-by-the-minute services like ReachNow in Seattle, “We had 14,000 people sign up in 4 days, in a market already served by Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Car2go,” Douglas said. “Someone else spent the money to educate the market and then we came in with a cool product. We will not be the largest, but we can be the coolest.”
BMW plans to use not just its expertise making premium vehicles, but also its ability to manufacture, own and manage fleets of premium vehicles.
“Uber and Lyft do not operate their own fleets of cars. Owning the fleet means you can make offers that Lyft and others are unable to provide. For example providing car sharing for a specific community only,” BMW’s Chief Executive Harald Krueger added.
Reuters adds that BMW confirmed that during the testing there will be a trained test driver behind the wheel of every car.