German automaker wants drivers to experience the best of both worlds

Every automaker has different ideas on what the future of autonomous driving is. Volkswagen views its future cars as having no driver controls, a sentiment shared by a few others in the business. For its part, Lamborghini has no plans to go autonomous at any point, arguing that doing so would completely rob the driver of the very essence of what a Lambo is all about. Then there’s BMW. The German automaker has no intention of removing the steering wheel on their future autonomous vehicles. Apparently, Bimmer wants the wheel, and the driver controls to remain in its cars to give drivers the best of both worlds. Hard to argue against that sentiment.

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The whole point of autonomous driving is to make drivers and occupants trust the car to do the driving for them

It’s hard to argue against BMW’s position. The whole point of autonomous driving is to make drivers and occupants trust the car to do the driving for them. But just because that’s the case, that doesn’t mean drivers can’t take control back of the car when they want to. An autonomous car without a steering wheel and driving controls effectively rob drivers of that option. Robert Irlinger, the head of BMW’s i division, said it best when told Autocar the importance of giving the driver the opportunity to drive his car if he wants to. “By giving the driver the choice, then they can have the best of both worlds – the convenience of autonomy when they want it or the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of driving when it suits them.”

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Having a steering wheel and driver controls won’t impact the other aspects of its autonomous car

Irlinger added that having a steering wheel and driver controls won’t impact the other aspects of its autonomous cars. Given their self-driving capabilities, these cars will also feature comfort and luxury amenities on the cabin to accommodate the expectations of its future owners. BMW’s goal is to design a system that allows driver controls to be accessed when they’re needed and stowed when they’re not.

It’s an interesting position to take, but one that isn’t surprising given the number of automakers that are pushing to be different with their autonomous driving offerings. That said, Irlinger didn’t say that this position would remain the status quo forever. There’s a chance that BMW could also develop a steering wheel-less self-driving car, but in his words, “it’s not our goal.”

References

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