BMW development boss Klaus Frohlich has vowed that the firm’s machines “will always have a steering wheel” – and says its autonomous machines, such as the production version of its new Vision iNext concept, will enhance the enjoyment of driving.
The Vision iNext concept previews a machine that will go on sale in 2021. Depending on local legislation and infrastructure, BMW says it will be capable of ‘level four’ autonomy in certain situations, meaning the driver will not need to pay attention to what the car is doing.
Asked by Autocar how BMW would balance developing autonomous technology with its reputation for making driver’s cars, Frohlich said: “It’s not difficult. We are not a robotics or technology company; we are a car company.
“But there are some situations – for example, in traffic – where sheer driving pleasure is not possible, even in a BMW. Sometimes you can enhance driving pleasure by not driving.”
He added: “BMW cars will always have a steering wheel. The cars we have launched recently have been developed with a precise steering feel and to offer an emotional driving experience. Autonomous systems are additional to that. BMW cars are still the ultimate driving pleasure.”
Several of BMW’s rivals are developing ‘level five’ autonomous vehicles that won’t feature a steering wheel at all. The VW Group has established a new sub-brand called Moia, while Volvo launching a new M firm focused on mobility services. But Frohlich said building such a vehicle was of no interest to BMW.