Company / division: BMW
I’ve seen this announcement referred to as being about crowdsourcing in at least one place, and that’s exactly the wrong word to use, because this isn’t about a crowd of people at all, but about real-time data from vehicles. In contrast to crowd-sourced map data, which can easily be manipulated for humorous or nefarious ends, this is a closed-loop system in which anonymized data from BMW cars will help update HERE’s increasingly detailed and real-time maps. And that kind of up-to-the-minute map data will be critical for autonomous driving in future – it’s no good knowing what the road looked like six months ago (or even yesterday) if there’s construction, an accident, or a roadblock today. Putting this technology into one manufacturer’s new cars by itself isn’t going to generate that much data – there simply aren’t enough brand-new BMWs to be useful. But if HERE strikes similar partnerships with other carmakers, then over time it could end up with some of the best real-time map data out there. It’s a little hard to tell from HERE’s release, but the BMW/Mobileye release certainly suggests that the latter will also get to aggregate and use the data. This announcement also highlights the fact that, no matter how clever the technology from Silicon Valley startups, the companies with by far the most and best data will be the car companies and those that partner with them.
BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye Will Have Autonomous Test Vehicles on the Roads by the Second Half of 2017 | Intel Newsroom (Jan 4, 2017)
This is a big deal for Intel, which has seemed to be behind some of its big chip competitors in the autonomous driving space, and the fact that real cars will be on real roads later this year means this is delivering actual results today, and not just a loose partnership. This will be a big year for autonomous driving in general, likely the year almost all big automakers run some of their first trials on real roads, and Intel needs to be in the mix like this. I’ll be talking to BMW next week at the Detroit auto show about all this too.