Automated & Connected

Daimler AG and BMW Group partner to develop SAE Level 4 automated driving systems, platforms

Daimler AG and BMW Group in Germany will jointly develop next-generation technologies for driver assistance systems, automated driving on highways, and automated parking to SAE Level 4, according to a newly signed agreement for long-term strategic cooperation, which will extend to encompass a scalable platform for automated driving.


Company officials plan further talks to extend the cooperation to higher levels of automation, as defined in SAE International’s J3016 Levels of Driving Automation, in urban areas and city centers. The companies will implement the technologies in their respective series products independently, officials say.


The non-exclusive cooperation is open to other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology partners, with results being made available to other OEMs under license.


The swift market launch of the technology, which is expected to feature in passenger car systems for private customers from 2024, is a key focus of the cooperation. Efforts will focus on developing a scalable architecture for driver assistance systems, including sensors, as well as a joint data center for data storage, administration and processing, and the development of functions and software.


Officials anticipate that more than 1,200 specialists will work together, often in mixed teams based at locations such as the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre (MTC) in Sindelfingen, the Daimler Testing and Technology Centre in Immendingen, and the BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleissheim, near Munich.


Along with Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, Continental, Fiat Chrysler, HERE, Infineon, Intel, Volkswagen, BMW Group, and Daimler have published a white paper, “Safety First for Automated Driving,” that covers relevant safety methods for SAE Level 3/4 automated driving and introduces a traceability system, which extends from the primary goal – being safer than the average driver –down to the individual safety objectives of the various components.


SAE J3016 Levels of Driving Automation


Daimler AG has been working on series development projects not only for specific SAE Level 3 vehicles, but also for SAE Levels 4 and 5. It programmed its systems largely in-house from the beginning, officials say, predicting that 2019 will see the launch in San José, Silicon Valley, of its first pilot program, with Bosch, on self-driving vehicles (SAE Levels 4/5) in urban environments. It will be the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned.


Early next decade, Daimler will bring to the market highly automated (SAE Level 3) and fully automated (SAE Level 4/5) vehicles. The company is “well-positioned to apply autonomous driving in every relevant context, from passenger cars and vans to buses and trucks, and is therefore relying on scalable solutions to deliver automated driving,” officials say.


The BMW Group has been working on highly automated driving since 2006 and has established a non-exclusive platform with technology specialists, suppliers, and OEMs to take it to series maturity. Since 2017, work in this area has been consolidated at the Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleissheim, just north of Munich, and the industrialization of the technology is being advanced with the support of partners. The technology’s scalability from SAE Level 2 through 4 enables a high level of flexibility and ensures it will be viable in the future, according to company representatives.


Cutting-edge agile software development is used at the campus to speed development of the platform. Around the world, more than 70 test vehicles are testing the latest technology, collecting data to improve machine learning with artificial intelligence through simulations and test new SAE Level 2 - 5 functions on the road. The generation of technologies currently under development will go into series production as SAE Level 3 automation in 2021 in the BMW iNEXT, in which SAE Level 4 will also be enabled for pilot projects.


More on Automated Driving System testing and validation: Unsettled Technology Areas in Autonomous Vehicle Test and Validation

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Courtney E. Howard is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International. Contact her by e-mail at