BMW Joins China’s Tencent to Build Level 3/4 Automated Driving Platform

The “D3” will be used for safety validation of Level 3 and early-stage study of Level 4 technologies.

By Murray Slovick, Contributing Editor

BMW China Automotive Trading Ltd. and Tencent, one of the largest tech companies in China (the company surpassed US$500 billion in market value in 2018), signed an agreement to work together on building BMW’s D³ platform, which will form the backbone of all future BMW automated driving technologies in China. The “D³” in the new IT platform’s name stands for Data-Driven Development, which forms the basis for the development of highly (Level 3) and fully (Level 4) automated driving functions. The BMW Group will use the platform to develop automated driving technologies and products that suit the complex local traffic conditions and meet local customer demands.

In a statement, Alejandro Vukotich, BMW Senior Vice President Automated Driving, said, “Our ultimate goal is to make the car safer than the human driver through greater automation. Safety is paramount to us. We therefore need to process a lot of data for simulation, testing, and validation. The launch of the D³ Data-Driven Development platform in China is the next big step for us along this path.”

Before the BMW Group commences series production of Level 3 vehicles in 2021, the platform will be used mainly for safety validation of Level 3 and the early-stage study of Level 4 technologies. After 2021, the platform will assist both the post-production development of Level 3 models and research into Level 4 technologies.

This self-driving BMW automobile was presented at the company’s recent China Innovation Day.

The need for high-end data-crunching capabilities is essential for autonomous driving, as the system relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to help the cars learn from experience and eventually drive themselves without requiring intervention from a human driver. To that end, Tencent will build a high-performance computing data center in Tianjin, China for BMW. Tencent will provide IT architecture, tools, and platforms for the facility, according to the company. BMW already operates a similar D³ facility near Munich.

“Tencent is committed to assisting automotive companies in the digital transformation,” said Dowson Tong, president of Tencent Cloud & Smart Industry. He added, “The collaboration between Tencent and BMW Group has deepened over the past year or so, which proves BMW’s recognition of Tencent’s technical strength in the fields of cloud computing, big data, security, and AI. We hope that with the continuous deepening of cooperation between the two parties, we can create a new model and a new benchmark for cooperation between Chinese technology companies and international automotive companies.”

The Tianjin D³ center, which will start operations by the end of the year, will leverage Tencent’s capabilities in cloud computing and big data to develop autonomous-driving technology and products that are adapted to Chinese road and traffic conditions. China has become known as having the most complex traffic in the world.

“The BMW Group China High Performance D³ platform will allow us to develop autonomous driving solutions that represent a better fit for the specific driving scenarios in China,” said Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW Group Region China.

China is BMW’s largest market worldwide. It delivered 350,070 BMW and MINI-branded vehicles in the country from January to June, up 16.8% year-on-year.

The company’s announcement of a Chinese autonomous car data center came a day after BMW said that production chief Oliver Zipse will succeed Harald Krüger as its next CEO this August, with an aim to provide fresh momentum to the company’s shift to electric vehicles, new approaches to mobility, and the rise of self-driving technology.

BMW received its autonomous-driving permit in China in May 2018, which has since enabled it to test its fleet on public roads in Shanghai. With the BMW Group China’s D³ platform set up and ready to begin operations by year’s end, BMW plans to launch semi-autonomous L3 vehicles by 2021.

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