The two German automotive powerhouses will work together on the program over the next two years, developing a number of prototypes capable of highly autonomous operation.
A selected group of trained test participants will pilot the autonomous prototypes across motorways in Germany and across Europe, where they will encounter everyday challenges like intersections, road works, toll stations and national borders.
BMW has been working on autonomous driving technology for more than a decade and has already taken significant strides in the development of driverless vehicle functions.
In mid-2011, a BMW Group Research and Technology test vehicle drove roughly 170km from Munich to Nuremberg with no driver intervention, and since then has covered another 10,000km of testing, with upgrades made along the way.
BMW’s autonomous prototypes employ a host of sensor technologies, including lidar, radar, ultrasound and camera scanning systems to provide 360-degree perception.
Assisting navigation is the BMW TrackTrainer program, which combines video data, GPS and highly accurate digital mapping technology to select the best route and “racing line” for the journey.
Additionally, BMW Emergency Stop Assistant can identify if there is a medical emergency inside the vehicle, activate the hazard lights and manoeuvre it safely to a standstill on the side of the road, while BMW eCall requests medical assistance and alerts traffic authorities.
BMW and Continental say the research project will bring ‘Vision Zero’ dreams of accident-free roads closer to reality as well as contribute to significantly improved convenience and efficiency.