Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show this week, BMW board member Klaus Froehlich told Reuters that the Bavarian automaker is refocusing its sights on Silicon Valley. The goal, Froehlich said, is to have half of BMW's research and development staff to be computer programmers. Their mission: to build the AI that will maneuver upcoming self-driving BMWs. In other words, after 100 years of building what the company calls the ultimate driving machine, BMW is shifting over to the ultimate machine driver. We should've seen it coming with that autonomous driving video last year.
Many automakers are working on autonomous cars these days, and this is all nothing new for BMW, but Froehlich's comments show an increased focus on cars that will drive you. "For me it is a core competence to have the most intelligent car," Froehlich said. "Our task is to preserve our business model without surrendering it to an Internet player."
Some of the tasks that Froehlich sees for an expanded software team will be developing better cloud connection, so that a self-driving car can get messages from a central network. It means perhaps licensing BMW's plug-in powertrains to smaller companies that maybe can't build their own but have other strengths that BMW can access. By developing its own staff and working with partners – the same strategy automakers have used for years – BMW is trying to get ready for the autonomous future.