BMW to Test the “Coolest” Self-driving Vehicle Ride-hailing Service Next Year

BMW autonomous cars to be tested for ride-hailing service in Munich in 2017

By next year, BMW intends to have 40 self-driving cars that will be tested for used for a car-sharing service in the inner city area of Munich, Germany. Apparently, the growth of Uber has stoked BMW’s own need to compete in the ride-hailing market, and to integrate autonomous capabilities into these vehicles.

Based on how they perform in Munich, BMW will expand the service to other cities in Germany.

According to BMW, there will be a trained test driver in each car. The company’s Head of Strategy for mobility services, Tony Douglas, says: “Ride hailing is nothing more than manual autonomous driving. Once you dispense with the driver you have a license to print money.”

And this isn’t the first time BMW has made a commitment to its ride-hailing goals. In Seattle, for example, they’re already testing such pay-per-minute services like ReachNow. According to Douglas, the company saw no less than 14,000 signups in a 4-day period – this in a market already thick with competitors like Zipcar, Uber, Lyft and Car2go.

But BMW is merely joining the bandwagon along with carmakers like Ford and Volvo, both of whom have been doing extensive testing with autonomous vehicles. In fact, Volvo already has a fleet of about 100 self-driving cars running in Pittsburgh under the Uber brand name.

These companies are all looking at declining sales as ride-hailing becomes more popular by the year. Uber is already valued in the tens of billions of dollars, and Lyft is actually growing at an ever faster rate than Uber as of 2016, socially speaking.


What you’re seeing above is the “purchase intent social mentions” for both companies over the past one year. It’s not an accurate reflection of revenue growth, but a fairly reliable one.

With such rapidly growing companies in this space, companies like BMW have to tread carefully if they want to retain their luxury brand perception in key markets. But they do seem to have a strategy in mind:

“Uber and Lyft do not operate their own fleets of cars. Owning the fleet means you can make offers that Lyft and others are unable to provide. For example providing car sharing for a specific community only.” – BMW’s Chief Executive Harald Krueger

ReachNow is a good start, but it is minuscule compared to Uber’s presence around the world. If BMW wants to get serious – as they apparently are – they’ll have to move fast and occupy the market niche that best suits their brand image.

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