It seems BMW is having a few concerns about getting left behind when it comes to the rising trend of all-electric vehicles and autonomous driving features. The German car manufacturer now has specific goals to strengthen its research and development team with engineers familiar with artificial intelligence and software development. The source of this motivation is no doubt a fear of increased competition from the likes of Apple, Tesla, Google, and other Silicon Valley newcomers with automotive aspirations.
In an interview with Reuters at the Geneva Motor Show, BMW exec Klaus Froehlich explained that the company must work to protect its business model, or else risk losing out to "an internet player." He even used a great analogy referencing Apple and the smartphone market: "Otherwise we will end up as the Foxconn for a company like Apple, delivering only the metal bodies for them."
So, BMW is feeling concerned about the future of its business, what's it going to do to evolve? "For me it is a core competence to have the most intelligent car," Froehlich said.
Over the next five years, the changes to R&D will involve moving from only 20% of the team's 30,000 employees being familiar with software up to half. BMW recognizes that it won't be able to directly hire all these new employees, so that means looking for partners with knowledge in autonomous driving, cloud computing, and programming.
This is where those recent reports about Apple and BMW having talks about possibly collaborating on the former's mysterious "Project Titan" automotive project come to mind. While the two companies were said to have been nowhere near an agreement, it at least helps paint the picture of BMW's situation and what they're aiming for.