Why the BMW 7 Series uses HERE HD Live Map to power its hands-free feature
BMW Group's experts in connected and automated driving share why maps are so important for the self-driving revolution.
As automakers seek to get ahead in the self-driving race, the BMW Group finds itself in an enviable position.
“We are already close to creating a Level 3 product in terms of the architecture," said Dr. Nicolai Martin, SVP of Driving Experience at BMW. He said the main challenge ahead lies not in refining the algorithms they need, but in other factors.
“You have to do a positive risk balance that shows the system is statistically safer than the average driver," he said. “It means a big effort is needed in simulation, validation and reprocessing — and the map is very important."
The roadmap ahead
With the 7 Series, the BMW Group has taken a different approach than many car manufacturers toward automated driving.
While many rely on cameras and sensors to guide the vehicle, the map plays a central role for the BMW 7 Series. The hands-off option in the vehicle drives "on-map" instead of "on-lane". That means it depends upon a high-quality map for attributes such as geometry, lane positioning, and predicting road traffic signs in time. The sensors act as an extra layer so that the safety load is shared between the sensors and the map.
“The map is the primary input for creating the driving path of the vehicle with the sensors as a backup," Dr. Martin said. “This is not the usual way for Level 2."
Stephan Durach, BMW Group's SVP of Connected Company Development, added: “We have been able to generate a really safe system that will also respect the privacy of our customers.
“To have an always-fresh map, which is consistently up-to-date and where you can have a constant exchange of information which we can provide through our infrastructure to our partners to enhance the map – it's a really important part of the picture."
The map is used as the operational design domain (ODD), letting the car know when and where the automated driving feature can be used.
The driving experience
The BMW Group aims to provide an “intelligent driving experience" for its customers, including improved comfort and safety.
This intelligence is shown not only in the car's ability to react to situations on the road, Dr. Martin said, but also in its ability to predict events. This is something the map helps to provide.
Along with that, the 7 Series has a 31-inch cinema screen in the car with 8k high resolution. Passengers can watch football or get results from the German League beamed onto the screen. A wealth of other content is available through a partnership between BMW Group and Amazon's Fire TV. There is also a theater mode, which involves a screen that folds down from the roof and surround sound.
The displays and possibilities of this in-car canvas have been carefully curated while being mindful of the need to avoid distracting the driver.
“It's not a smartphone," Durach said. “We can't flood the customer with an overwhelming amount of information. It is about giving the information that is meaningful to the customer at the point that they need it."
The software-defined vehicle
BMW is becoming increasingly aware that functions inside the car are powered by software rather than hardware.
Durach explained: “To a degree, the computational power you have inside the car is limited, so it is essential to leverage the computational power you have in the back end."
A connected vehicle can use this power to get the right information to the customer. For instance, routing for electric vehicles (EVs) can only work when data about the location, availability and condition of charge points is sent to the vehicle at the right time.
“What is important from our perspective is to be a great integrator of these solutions," Durach said.
“You don't have to build everything yourself. Just like with cooking, all the ingredients are on the table, but what matters is the recipe.
“For the software-defined vehicle, there are different 'recipes' where we can fulfill great and new applications at any point in time."
For Dr. Martin, this is about creating the best overarching experience for customers, with all the individual features combined in the best way.
“It comes down to how intelligent the vehicle is: in creating the right route, including charging options, combining mechanical aspects and arrangements in the vehicle, and then the seamless combination of pure driving with the joyful feeling of steering."
While the base layer, including the map, will create this intelligence, the driver will simply enjoy a smooth driving experience.
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