The auto industry continues to shift into high gear to lay the groundwork for driverless cars with an electric vehicle (EV) emphasis.
In the latest high-profile move by a carmaker to gain an edge in self-drive vehicles and EVs, German premium carmaker BMW plans to slash 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) from its procurement costs almost exclusively related to its combustion engine production to help fund its driverless and electric powertrain development.
In an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, BMW's head of production Markus Duesmann said the company spends about 20 billion euros a year on indirect procurement for its cars, out of which he said the money saved will be better spent on BMW's self-drive vehicles and EVs.
So far, BMW's all-electric i3 does not offer driverless features, while last year, BMW, Intel, and Mobileye said they were joining forces for the development of a level 3-enabled model BMW plans to launch by 2021 called the iNext.
BMW's bid to slash 1 billion euros in production costs for its driverless vehicles and EVs follows other high-profile moves from competitors.
As reported earlier this week, for example, Volvo Cars said it was going "all-electric" by 2019. After stating its bold claim it will offer Level 4 driverless models by 2021, Volvo has begun to phase out its combustion engine-only models and will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021.
While Tesla has long enjoyed a lead in premium EV cars with the most-advanced driverless features available in retail channels, it will likely face competition from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and others, as well as from BMW and Volvo as they begin to offer EVs with advanced driverless features.
French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said France plans to ban the production and sale of diesel- and gasoline-powered cars by 2040. A longtime proponent of EVs, Hulot cited cited Volvo Cars' shift away from combustion engine cars as an example to follow.
The increased acceptance of EVs is also seen as an additional boon for driverless vehicles, since artificial intelligence (AI) systems are easier to design for EVs compared to applying AI to less digitally efficient fuel injection-controlled systems. Also, since EVs lend themselves to short trip distances for urban fleet services; EVs, for the most part, offer a better fit for driverless vehicles than combustion engine cars do.
Ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick reached out to Google cofounder Larry Page to discuss a driverless partnership before Google parent Alphabet's Waymo sued the company, claiming Uber used information from documents a former employee allegedly stole. Comma AI debuts an $88 dongle for driverless data gathering.