According to the Reutlingen police reports, the BMW iX was an “autonomous electric test car.” However, BMW later denied the car had self-driving capabilities.
A BMW iX test car was involved in a severe crash on Monday near the German town of Reutlingen. The car had an “autonomous driving” label that German media was keen on blurring when reporting the news. Unedited images posted on social media showed that the vehicle involved had the sticker. It is unclear whether the test vehicle was driving autonomously at the time of the crash. BMW denied the car involved was fully autonomous.
According to police reports, five people were in the BMW test car at the time of the crash, including an 18-month-old child. This might seem odd for a test vehicle, but sometimes testers use the cars for everyday needs, as this helps add more miles on them. Also, as several people pointed out on social media, the “autonomous driving” label does not necessarily mean that the car was autonomous. Instead, it’s a legal requirement to tell people the car has active surveillance equipment on board.
Police reports say the BMW iX swerved out of its lane at a bend in the road, causing several collisions involving four vehicles. The car brushed an incoming Citroen before hitting a Mercedes-Benz van head-on, resulting in the death of a passenger in that vehicle. The driver of the Citroen lost control of the car and crashed into another vehicle with two people on board, causing it to burst into flames. Four rescue helicopters and dozens of firefighters responded to the accident.
The police did not have the chance to talk to any of the people involved, so it’s unclear how the accident happened. Although the police reported the BMW involved in the crash was “an autonomous electric test car,” BMW denied it had self-driving capabilities. We’re unsure whether this is to deflect the blame on the driver rather than the system.
“The vehicle has a level 2 driving assistance system that is already incorporated in production vehicles today and which can support the driver on demand,” the company said, according to Associated Press. “With level 2 vehicles, the driver always retains responsibility.”
Interestingly, the BMW iX crash happened in an area where BMW’s partner Mobileye is testing its autonomous tech. Even more interesting, the driving assistance software in the BMW iX is developed by Green Hills Software, the same company behind a rabid campaign against the Tesla FSD in the U.S. On the plus side, there was no fire igniting post-crash, which confirms BMW's electric vehicles are as safe as they can be.