MUNICH / Bloomberg
BMW AG, which became the world’s largest maker of luxury cars by focusing on Autobahn thrills, is shifting gears to automated driving as urbanization and changing attitudes toward cars redefine transportation.
“In the future, ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ will also be defined as liberating drivers through automation,” BMW said on Monday in a statement as it celebrated turning 100 years old. “The company is on the verge of realizing automated driving. With it will come a series of technical challenges, but also a major opportunity for revolutionizing mobility.”
Vehicles moving autonomously was a question of ‘‘when,’’ not “if,’’ BMW said, adding that it sees people still wanting to take over the wheel at times to experience the thrill of driving. The look into the future comes as the Munich-based carmaker teeters on the edge of losing the top spot in the luxury-car market it’s held since 2005.
With sales growth lagging behind No. 2 Mercedes-Benz, BMW is under pressure to show it can still innovate. To that end, the company presented a concept called BMW Vision Next 100, imagining a vehicle that will allow drivers to select when they want control over the wheel and when they want to do something else, with an interactive windshield that can warn of bicycles, pedestrians or other road obstacles.
BMW isn’t alone grappling with how digital, urban lifestyles are changing what people expect from a car. The industry is set to experience a “much wider kind of competition” as artificial intelligence makes it possible for vehicles to talk to each other, drive themselves and free up people’s commuting time, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes parent Daimler AG, said.