BMW Group has officially obtained the Shanghai Intelligent Connected Autonomous Driving Test Licence, issued by the Intelligent Connected Vehicle Road Test Promotion Team - consisting of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatisation, Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau and Shanghai Municipal Transportation Commission.

BMW claims to be the first international auto maker to obtain the autonomous driving road test licence in China.

China is promoting autonomous driving as a part of boosting intelligent connected vehicles (ICVs) and its recent smart city, smart China initiative. BMW anticipated this development - and was first to demonstrate and publish level three highly autonomous driving on a designated highway under government supervision in Chengdu as early as 2016.

To carry out road tests for the preparation of level four, Shanghai is an attractive, innovative city, the automaker said. The group has set up a strong local team, including over 60 experts in autonomous driving.

Using the licence, the R&D team will gather several petabyte of data based on actual traffic, covering its full complexity. This data will be used to train machine learning algorithms performing adequate level four behaviour.

The test sites in Shanghai currently cover a total length of about 5.6km but planned to grow quickly over time. The test fleet is based on the latest 7 Series models, starting with two operating vehicles in May and expanding to seven by December. Accumulated mileage is nearly 30,000km (20,000 miles) of road test in China and more than 200,000km of computer simulation.

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