Opinion

'Autonomous cars will be ready long before our roads are'

With autonomous cars fast approaching, the laws to govern them are still some way off, says Steve Fowler

Ian Robertson discusses BMW's autonomous future

If there’s one person worth listening to on the subject of technology, it’s BMW’s British board member (and Auto Express Brit List winner) Ian Robertson. Having launched BMW’s i brand to establish his company at the forefront of electric car tech – which is now paying off handsomely – he’s now at the forefront of BMW’s autonomous push.

“We’re building a big resource base in-house to take this forward,” Robertson told us. “We’re building a new campus in Munich and in the second half of this year we’ll put forty 7 Series on the road with the autonomous next steps on board. Over the next four-and-a-bit years we’ll develop the tech and that will be delivered within the next i car.”

• Everything you need to know about driverless cars

Another big step was the acquisition of Here from Nokia (with Daimler and Volkswagen). “That’s moving quickly,” continued Robertson.

“The reason we did it was to get 20 million vehicles that could give us real-time software updatability. Mapping today is accurate to 6-10 metres – for autonomous driving we need 6-10cm.”

“We’ve got systems that are developing the predictability of traffic lights, so it will slow the car as it knows the traffic light is changing so you don’t stop before you get going again. It’s using traffic flow, navigation data and cars communicating where they are and how fast they’re moving.”

So the cars are ready, but what about legislation? “We want legislation and technology running in parallel, and I’m not seeing that,” admitted Robertson. “The discussion needs to be open and there; at the moment it’s fragmented.”

That’s a worry. Robertson reckons we could end up with cars allowed to drive autonomously in some towns and cities and on some roads, not others – in the same country! Let’s hope governments don’t allow that to happen.

Are you excited about the future of autonomy, or are you dreading the day drivers make way for computers? Leave us your thoughts below...

Recommended

New BMW i Vision Circular concept showcases brand’s view of a sustainable future
BMW i Vision Circular - Munich front
BMW

New BMW i Vision Circular concept showcases brand’s view of a sustainable future

The new BMW i Vision Circular concept is a vision of a 2040 hatchback made entirely from recycled and recyclable materials
6 Sep 2021
New 2022 BMW iX5 Hydrogen revealed ahead of Munich motor show
BMW iX5 hydrogen
BMW

New 2022 BMW iX5 Hydrogen revealed ahead of Munich motor show

Despite still being under development, BMW will offer show-goers passenger rides in its upcoming hydrogen-powered iX5 SUV
18 Aug 2021
BMW Points reward programme offers free charging for UK plug-in hybrid drivers
BMW X3 PHEV
BMW

BMW Points reward programme offers free charging for UK plug-in hybrid drivers

BMW launches Points programme in the UK, rewarding plug-in hybrid drivers for pure-electric running
4 Aug 2021
Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s
Best cars of the 60s - header
Best cars & vans

Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s

The swinging sixties brought a vast array of unforgettable cars that would establish the path of the industry for decades to come. We pick our top 30 …
21 Jun 2021

Most Popular

'The death of cheap cars will be a travesty for personal mobility'
Opinion cheap cars
Opinion

'The death of cheap cars will be a travesty for personal mobility'

Our appetite for small, cheap cars is as strong as ever - although Mike Rutherford warns they may no longer be profitable
12 Sep 2021
E10 petrol explained: UK prices, checker tool and is it OK for your car?
Petrol pump
News

E10 petrol explained: UK prices, checker tool and is it OK for your car?

E10 petrol is up to 10 per cent ethanol and is available at UK fuel stations now as part of the bid to cut CO2 emissions
1 Sep 2021
What is Skoda vRS? History and best cars driven
Skoda vRS range
Skoda

What is Skoda vRS? History and best cars driven

To mark 20 years of Skoda’s vRS badge, we rounded up some of the performance cars from the past two decades that have worn the subtle green badge
17 Sep 2021