World Car of the Year Award Finalists

It’s the most exciting time of year for car enthusiasts — they’ve just announced the finalists for the World Car of the Year award. This award, which has been given annually since 2004, highlights the best of the best in automotive manufacturing.

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s finalists, as well as some of the highlights of previous years.

2019’s Finalists

Ten cars are shortlisted for the award:

  1. Audi e-tron, Audi’s first fully electric SUV
  2. BMW 3 Series
  3. Ford Focus
  4. Genesis G70
  5. Hyundai Nexo, the only hydrogen-powered model on the list
  6. Jaguar I-Pace
  7. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
  8. Suzuki Jimny
  9. Volvo S60 and the S60 Wagon
  10. Volvo XC40

There are also five other categories — Design of the Year, Luxury Car, Performance Car, Urban Car and Green Car — that are all up for grabs. One fan favorite is the Suzuki Jimny, a boxy off-road SUV that scored three ANCAP safety stars.

It might not be the most technologically advanced car on the list, but it’s both fun and affordable, making it a front-runner in this competition.

Choosing the World’s Best Car

What goes into selecting the world’s best car every year?

This award is based on the judgments of each year’s jury — 82 automotive journalists from around the world that are newly chosen for each new year. To qualify, the vehicle must be sold in at least five countries, making it a global commodity. This qualification counts out many North American cars and manufacturers because they’re only available in the states.

During its first year, the only award handed out was the big one — World Car of the Year. In 2006, the performance, green and design categories were added, and in 2013 the luxury category joined the ranks. In 2017, the urban car award was also added.

Past Winners in the Present

While we wait for the jury to finish their judging — the winners will be announced at the 2019 New York Auto Show in April — let’s take a peek at some of the winners of the past, especially those that are in the running again this year.

The Audi XC60 took the big prize in 2018, and it’s up for the same honors this year. BMW won World Performance car in the same year with the M5, and Audi took the title of World Luxury Car with its A8.

BMW took the first Urban Car title in 2017 with the i3. That year also features two wins by the Jaguar F-PACE, and one each by Mercedes, Toyota and Porsche.

BMW, in particular, has entered at least one prize-winning car in the last five years. The 7 Series took the Luxury Car title in 2016, and the i8 won World Green Car in 2015. In 2014, the i3 took two titles — Green and Design.

Even with all of these wins under their belt, BMW hasn’t won the World Car of the Year title since 2006 with the 3 Series — the same model that’s shortlisted as a finalist this year. Maybe 2019 is the year that BMW’s luck changes.

Final Thoughts

We’ve got a couple of months before this year’s winners will be announced — 2019’s New York Auto Show runs from April 19th through the 28th — but that’s plenty of time to speculate on who might take home the title this year. Who do you think will win the coveted World Car of the Year title?

How Close Is BMW to Creating Autonomous Vehicles?

There’s been a ton of buzz surrounding self-driving cars recently, both about BMW and the broader auto industry. It seems like we’re perpetually on the cusp of a world in which no one has to physically drive their own cars anymore. When will autonomous vehicles — and, more specifically, self-driving BMWs — really be ready?

The Five Levels of Autonomous Driving

Experts define five levels of autonomous driving, with each one being more advanced than the one before it. Level one includes driver assist technologies that help the driver but don’t take control over the car. In level five, the vehicle operates itself completely, and the people in the car are merely passengers.

Level one technologies are commonplace in today’s world, and all new BMW models have them. BMW Personal CoPilot driver assistance systems are examples of level one tech. These systems include Active Cruise Control with the Stop&Go function, which adjusts your distance to the car in front of you. The Collision and Pedestrian Warning system with City Brake Activation uses automatic braking to prevent collisions.

Some Beamers also have level two technologies. In this level, the car can take control, but the driver is still responsible for vehicle operation. These systems include BMW’s Steering and Lane Control Assistant, which includes Traffic Jam Assistant. Designed to make everyday driving easier, these systems can take over steering, in addition to automatically braking and accelerating. Another example is the remote-controlled parking function.

In keeping with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s autonomous vehicle testing guidelines, BMW is currently testing cars with level three and level four autonomy. It aims to introduce level three cars to the consumer marker by 2021. These vehicles would be able to drive autonomously for longer periods, but drivers would still need to be ready to take control quickly and would have to drive under some conditions.

BMW is also testing level four cars and has a fleet of around 40 of them in Munich and California. In level four, the vehicle drives autonomously the majority of the time, although the driver must still be able to take over.

BMW’s Current Efforts

With a research and development team of about 1,000 people, BMW is working continuously on its autonomous vehicle technologies. The company does much of its research and development work out of its Silicon Valley technology office. The company is also testing the vehicles in California and Munich.

The test vehicles are loaded with cameras, lidar systems and other sensors that allow them to capture data about their environment. This includes information about the motion of other vehicles, the presence of pedestrians and other hazards. Hardware located in the trunk of the cars process all this information and puts it into action.

BMW is working with several partners on its autonomous vehicle tech, including Intel Corp., which owns sensor maker Mobileye. BMW also works with German automotive parts maker Continental AG and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. BMW has said it’s open to working with other collaborators and is pursuing a nonexclusive platform for the development of self-driving technology.

The iNext Concept

The Vision iNext concept provides a glimpse into what the future of BMW vehicles may look like. The idea behind the iNext concept is to turn the vehicle into a “living space on wheels.” It’s designed to be a place where you can relax as if you were at home, while still having the option of the driving experience BMW is known for.

The driver has two options for what experience they want to have in this iNext concept vehicle. In Boost mode, the driver is in full control, and the steering wheel is easily accessible. In Ease mode, the car operates autonomously. The steering wheel retracts slightly, freeing up some space. The vehicle includes two interactive digital screens that display information, such as your speed and your proximity to other cars.

The company premiered the concept at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It plans to have a production version in its showrooms by 2021 in the form of a level-three, all-electric SUV from its “i” brand.

Today’s new BMWs already have some autonomous functionalities, but we’re still a relatively long way off from fully autonomous, level five vehicles. We need more technological advancements as well as substantial safety testing, and federal rules will need to evolve further before we can fully adopt self-driving vehicles. BMW, however, expects Beamers with level-three capabilities to hit showrooms by 2021.

BMW, along with the rest of the auto industry, is moving steadily toward an autonomous future.