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BMW to Overhaul Electric Car Department in Favor for Self-Driving Vehicles

By Adie Pieraz , Jun 04, 2016 05:40 AM EDT
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After experiencing very lackluster sale numbers on their first electric car offering, BMW is going full gear on their research and development. The aim is to focus a great number of their manpower into enhancing their battery-powered cars.

According to Reuters, BMW sold a mere 25,000 units of their i3, its first fully battery-powered car. Meanwhile, Tesla already has a recorded 350,000 pre-order of their upcoming Model 3. It is because of these numbers and other tough competitors, the likes of Audi and Porsche, that BMW will be ordering their research and development to focus on enhancing the self-driving capabilities of their electric vehicles.

The publication spoke with one of the company's board members, Klaus Froehlich, who shared that BMW is expecting to increase the percentage of their software engineers from 20% to 50% within the next five years. Hiring more software engineers should prepare the company well enough for the release of its fully self-driving electric-powered flagship model, which it plans to release in 2021.

Froehlich is excited at the possibilities, which autonomous driving can provide. He divulged that the company could launch a ride-hailing business in the future and that self-driving vehicles will negate the necessity to hire drivers. This should give BMW an edge over current ride-hailing companies like Uber.

BMW is aware, however, that it might need to partner up with a current player and they are looking into the Chinese market for this. According to Froehlich, "China is extremely fast [at] implementing technology. Last year, more electric cars were sold in China than in all the other global markets combined."

Meanwhile, CNet has reported that BMW is currently trying to enhance their current i3, which is set to be launched by 2018. Along with the new i3, BMW's CEO has confirmed that the company is already developing its i8 Roadster.

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