BMW, Intel, and Mobileye first announced entering into their autonomous vehicle partnership in June 2016. BMW announced at the time that they planned to have self-driving vehicles on the road by the year 2021. Now, testing conducted by the companies appears to have reached a point at which putting test vehicles on the road is feasible. At CES 2017 on Wednesday, a joint announcement was made by the three companies that as many as 40 test vehicles are expected to be on the road by the second half of this year.
No specifics are available at the time of this writing, but it has been announced that the vehicles – reported to be custom versions from BMW's premium luxury 7-series – will be outfitted with the most recent iterations of Intel's chips and Mobileye's sensors. It also stands to reason, based on the history of the companies, that systems the cars will be outfitted with will be the best-suited solutions that the respective industries currently have to offer. This is great news for supporters of the autonomous vehicle movement – though some percentage of the population still have doubts about the viability or safety of self-driving cars. For those supporters, though, it is exciting to see one of the most respected automakers in the industry throw its money – not to mention its substantial research and development assets – behind autonomous vehicle technology.
It has also not yet been announced whether the self-driving 7 series will be tested on closed or public roads. The history of similar road testing has been more than a bit scattered across a variety of environments and conditions. Another unknown is the exact locations where the testing is to occur, though it has been revealed that initial testing will occur in Europe and the United States. Although this announcement signals progress, answers to philosophical questions surrounding autonomous vehicles still need to be found. However, some philosophical questions still need to be answered. How should the vehicle's systems react in scenarios with no win-win solutions? Who bears responsibility if a self-driven car is not able to save everybody in one of those scenarios? Once those questions have acceptable answers, legislation must be built around those answers to protect consumers and manufacturers alike.