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AV, AI and Smart Cities: Exclusive Interview With Stefan Teuchert, President and CEO of BMW Group Russia

By NexChange
AI, Smart Cities

Autonomous vehicles are yet to take over the market, but artificial intelligence has already taken the automotive industry to another level by driving the development of level-4 and level-5 AVs. Most of the major automotive manufacturers are actively launching self-driving programs and conducting extensive on-road testing.

At a conference named “How to make money with artificial intelligence in Russia”, organized by Forbes Russia, Nexchange’s Olga Yaroshevsky spoke to Stefan Teuchert, who is now head of BMW Group Russia and previously held the same position in Thailand.

Stefan announced that in 2021 a brand new BMW vision iNEXT would be introduced to the world, fully electric, fully connected and offering autonomous driving. New cars are powered, among other things, by AI-based Natural Interaction technology, which makes interacting with a car “as straightforward as talking to a friend”.

While increased safety is the primary goal, AI-powered and driverless cars industry should be implemented not only to smart cities programs, but also into the existing regulation, or even create a new framework to serve the new technology.

OY: When it comes to driverless cars, regulation and legislation are almost as important as the safety. In your work, do you get to sit down and work with governments to create a specific regulation? On a city level, or rather on a national level? Is there a common ground?

ST: I believe there has to be a common ground. Because all manufacturers who are looking into autonomous driving have the same problem: technology is faster than the regulation. Which means, today theoretically a car could drive already more or less itself, but from the regulation point we should first to hide the technology, as this issue is not solved yet. Of course car manufacturers can’t solve it alone. We need city authorities, we need governments to find a solution together, to decide how this will be regulated in the future. We believe traffic will be more safe anyhow, because the technology will help drivers to do better, to foresee particular situation at the early stages, before they can even seen it with their own eyes. But we will always have a mixture of old cars with old technology and new cars with new technology – this needs to be combined. And as long as there is no closed area where only intelligent and new technology cars will be driving and communicating to each other – there will always be this mixture, and risk. Therefore BMW, as well as other companies, are looking for a solution, we are talking to city authorities and governments, but of course we can not do it alone.

OY: I know that AI-powered self-driving cars might be forced to only be used in  particular restricted areas. Are there any developments in this space?

ST: We having testing roads. At the moment we are testing 7-series in Europe, in the US and in China – on certain roads, together with city authorities. I had a discussion with the Singapore government, as they plan to close city centre for autonomous cars and fully electric cars only. This is a more radical approach, but for a small area like Singapore it might work. You can’t imagine this will work in Moscow or in New York. A final solution can be this: regular traffic, individual traffic, autonomous traffic should be combined, and this requires much more security and communication, much more regulation than we have today.

OY: Do you collaborate with any smart city program?

ST: Yes, we do. In addition to talks with Singapore city and government, we also have our colleagues, who consult cities all over the world about how to develop traffic and combine it, and only cars, but also public transportation, bicycles, uber, car-sharing. We’re looking into that as well. In future we will not only produce cars, but also provide mobility services. And therefore, I believe that these discussions with city authorities should be more like brainstorms, to help both sides better understand the needs and possibilities of the future.

OY: What about other disruptive technologies?

ST: We have partners that work with programs and services like “park-now”, “drive-now”, “charge-now” etc. Their aim is to address customers who maybe don’t have a car, but are looking for mobility solutions. For these solutions we need applications and high-level IT support, otherwise it won’t work, and it has to work in milliseconds. Right now BMW is the biggest provider of parking space driven by an application. In the US we also have our i-Ventures company, which invests in new technologies, startups and companies developing tech for the future. We are very open to new technologies, as we believe that the future is much more interesting than just driving from A to B, and much more complex.

OY: And it’s very close, 2 years from now you will introduce BMW iNext!

ST: Yes, in 2021 we will launch iNext, which combines the latest technologies of our time, with autonomous driving level 3. And it will definitely have its own connectivity to city systems.

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