Is the self-driving technology alliance about to expand?
Last February, BMW and Daimler, parent company of Mercedes and Smart, announced an unusual but not entirely unexpected alliance. The two German automakers are teaming up in the development of self-driving car technologies. It makes better businesses sense to seek out partners, such as the VW Group-Ford alliance, than investing huge sums alone for a technology all automakers will need to have at some point. No equity is being traded in this case, but the alliance will still benefit both. And now, according to the German language Wirtschaftswoche, a third automaker is set to join BMW and Mercedes. Who is it? That would be Audi.
But hang on. Isn't Audi part of the Volkswagen Group? Yes. Could this somehow affect the latter's relationship with Ford? The report claims it won't, but an official announcement is expected at next month's 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. This potential alliance between Audi, BMW, and Daimler actually wouldn't be the first time the three worked together.
Back in 2015, they jointly purchased a company called HERE which specializes in digital maps. About a year later, HERE teamed up with Mobileye to develop even more detailed digital maps specifically for self-driving cars. As of now, BMW and Daimler's alliance calls for the first self-driving vehicles to be on sale by 2021. By 2024, the goal is to have Level 4 self-driving capability on sale.
Will these dates be moved up (or back) once Audi presumably comes into the picture? Anything's possible, but in all likelihood, BMW and Daimler have found a new partner to help with the heavy cost burden. We'll just have to wait and see what Ford has to say about it.