The consensus among those keeping an eye on the development of self-driving cars is clear: Autonomous vehicles are coming, sooner rather than later. Still, all the analysis in the world doesn’t speak as loudly as one of the world’s premier automotive brands, BMW, announcing it is releasing a fleet of self-driving cars onto U.S. and European roadways this year. BMW says its goal is to train the cars, equipped with computing systems developed by Intel and Mobileye, to drive in urban areas, with an eye towards full autonomy by 2021. As the article points out, automakers who hope to compete in the autonomous vehicles market space have a long way to go to catch up to Google and Tesla, whose vehicles have logged 2 million and 1.3 billion self-driving miles on public roads, respectively.
BMW’s move offers an important lesson about innovation. When starting to innovate with a new product, or any new way of doing business, learning about the space you’re entering is often more important than getting it exactly right from the start. BMW has made the decision that, rather than ceding the ground of self-driving cars entirely to early entrants like Google and Tesla, the company is better served by looking towards the future and starting to play catch-up now while the technology is still being developed. When it comes to innovation, the first movers don’t always win. Getting engaged with the right mind set of learning from the experience and data gathered is the key to proper execution.