BMW, Daimler Press Pause On Autonomous Driving Collaboration

BMW Daimler

The saga continues for German automakers BMW and Daimler and their recent joint efforts and collaborations. This time, instead of the combined mobility services that fall under the NOW brand name, it’s the combined effort for autonomous driving tech that is being put on indefinite hold.

We first learned of the collaboration between the two industry giants last February, when it was announced alongside further investment in the mobility (ride-sharing, ride-hailing, etc) sphere. As has been chronicled here on BimmerLife, the mobility side of things doesn’t seem like it’s bearing the type of fruit the two automakers might have expected when they announced plans to funnel more than $1,100,000,000 into the collective projects—although it should be noted that the mobility sector remains in its infancy, with both consumers and firms still figuring out what the future of transportation and car ownership look like after a century of evolution at a breakneck pace.

The news of BMW and Daimler hitting the brakes on their autonomous driving collaboration came this week, but the reasons cited in the press releases are not what you might expect. There’s absolutely no mention of the current pandemic that has wrought havoc on the global economy and automotive industry specifically. BMW says the mutual agreement to (at least temporarily) decouple was reached amicably, with the possibility of resumption at a later date left open. Looking further into the details, the BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz AG had not engaged in detailed discussions until the contract was actually signed last year. After extensive review, both sides have concluded that the timing isn’t right, with the acknowledgment that the current business and economic environment play at least some role.

Mercedes BMW

Throughout the press releases, it seems as though special emphasis has been placed on the possibility of both auto manufacturers potentially coming together once again to resume collaborations.

Klaus Fröhlich, the BMW board member responsible for overseeing development, was quoted as saying:

“We have systematically further developed our technology and scalable platform with partners like Intel, Mobileye, FCA, and Ansys. Our current technology generation offers very strong, sustainable potential: With extremely powerful sensors and computing power, our robust modular system puts us in an excellent position to offer our customers what they need for many years.”

Markus Schäfer, the Daimler board member responsible for overseeing group research, and COO of Mercedes-Benz, seemed to echo the sentiment when he said the following:

“Our expertise complements that of the BMW Group very well, as our successful collaborations have proved. Next to decarbonisation, digitalization is a major strategic pillar for Mercedes-Benz. To prepare for the future challenges of a rapidly changing environment, we are currently also sounding out other possibilities with partners outside the automotive sector.”

In closing, the joint press release expressed that both companies would continue working together in other fields as planned. This includes the collection of mobility services that were merged under the NOW name back in 2018.

As recently as Spring of last year, there was talk of eventual platform and component sharing between the two companies, but there have been few if any developments since.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]

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