BMW to offers its fleets of premium self-driving cars for ride-hailing services

In 2017, BMW will test its autonomous vehicles in Munich with a fleet of 40 vehicles. It will then gradually expand it to other cities as well. Although its cars will have self-driving capacity, they will be manned by a trained test driver.

In a move that is set to corner market share from Uber, BMW is set to test its autonomous vehicles in Munich next year and spend billions on a pay-per use personal transport vehicle.

BMW’s executives have said, initially the carmaker will have around 40 self-driving vehicles in Munich’s inner city. In time, this will be gradually expanded to other cities as well. However, these vehicles will not be completely autonomous.

“There is a trained test driver behind the wheel of every car,” explained Klaus Buettner, BMW’s Vice President in charge of Autonomous Driving.

Uber’s rapid growth has underlined the potential for autonomous vehicles and BMW plans to tap this market with its own pay-per-use transport system.

In the coming years, the traditional business model of vehicle ownership is said to change. Already tech companies such as Uber, Lyft and Juno have shaken up the auto industry with their alternative offerings through smartphone based ride-hailing services.

Traditional car manufacturers have also expanded into this segment with their own ride-hailing schemes and have invested in self-driving technology as well.

“Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving,” explained Tony Douglas, BMW’s Head of Strategy for mobility and services. He went on to add “Once you dispense with the driver you have a license to print money”.

“We had 14,000 people sign up in 4 days, in a market already served by Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Car2go,” said Douglas. “Someone else spent the money to educate the market and then we came in with a cool product. We will not be the largest, but we can be the coolest.”

BMW plans on capitalising on its expertise as a premium car manufacturer as well as its ability to manage and maintain fleets of premium vehicles.

“Uber and Lyft do not operate their own fleets of cars. Owning the fleet means you can make offers that Lyft and others are unable to provide. For example providing car sharing for a specific community only,” said BMW’s CEO, Harald Krueger.

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