If you want to put your autonomous technology through the ringer, China is the obvious choice (India comes in a close second). That's where BMW is headed, teaming up with China's largest search engine – Baidu – to test its self-driving tech in Beijing and Shanghai.
The program is set to last two years beginning this fall, and incorporates both "highly automated" (i.e. traffic jam assist) and full autonomous driving on highways.
Whereas typical features which must be taken into account in Europe include tunnels, national borders and toll stations, China's fast-expanding urban centres also present the engineers with challenges such as multi-level highways. BMW is taking on this new engineering challenge because it believes that only with a complete command of all the technical fundamentals will it be possible to help clarify the legal issues surrounding highly automated driving.
It's a baptism by fire for BMW's Vision Zero initiative, basically aping Volvo's own crashless program by shooting for "accident-free mobility" in the coming years through an "electronic co-pilot".
And BMW's partnership with Baidu is key, since the semi- and fully-autonomous testing program involves massive amounts of high-res mapping data which only the search giant can provide.