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Monday, June 6, 2016

BMW "i" Division To Focus On Autonomous Cars

The “i” sub-brand was founded by BMW in 2011 to design and manufacture lightweight electric vehicles, but new reports suggest the subsidiary has made a major strategic shift, turning its attention on self-driving tech as well.

According to Reuters, board member Klaus Froehlichsaid said that the German car manufacturer has used its “i” division as a development center for self-driving cars: "It is now in ramp-up stage. We call it Project i Next."

The company has changed track after its only all-electric car available, the i3, has failed to gain traction with the public, with only 25,000 sales last year. So, instead of challenging the likes of Tesla or Porsche with a similar concept (a zero-emissions sports limo, for example), BMW decided to shift its main focus on developing an electric vehicle equipped with autonomous technology for the near future.

As part of this mobilization, BMW is hiring experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence to integrate various functions, such as cruise control, emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and so on.

Don’t expect the model to appear sooner than 2020-2021 though, as BMW just laid the foundations of Project i Next with the recently previewed Vision Next 100 concept. Until then, it will update its only fully electric-powered car, the i3, by 2018, according to sources familiar with the matter.

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