BMW is looking to find a new purpose for its flailing ‘i’ division.
BMW has quietly made some changes to its electric vehicle strategy. After sales of its only all-electric car, the i3, have proved disappointing at only 25,000 units in 2015, the automaker has retooled its ‘i’ division to focus on developing self-driving technology.
According to a report by Reuters, the change in strategy took place back in April with the new aim of bringing autonomous electric vehicles to production.
“It is now in ramp-up stage. We call it Project i Next,” BMW board member Klaus Froehlich is quoted as saying in the Reuters article.
The Bavarian automaker has begun hiring engineers with expertise in artificial intelligence and developing technology that integrates systems such as cruise control, self-parking and lane-keeping that are already computer driven.
The point of the strategy is get ahead of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, which are expanding rapidly and eroding car sales in the process. According to Froehlich, with self-driving vehicles, BMW may get into the ride-service business itself and compete against those companies without having to hire drivers.
With competitors such as Tesla quickly bringing new electric cars to market, BMW has fallen behind and doesn’t have another all-electric vehicle due for another five years. By then, self-driving cars are expected to be a reality and a growing segment of the global automobile market. BMW is hoping to catch-up in the EV segment in the next decade by betting on self-driving technology.