BMW has altered the face of performance car driving with the unveiling of a new autonomous driving system that allows the driver to go hands off – not only in a straight line, but also in extreme situations, including wild oversteer drifts around a race track.
Demonstrated on a prototype version of the soon-to-be-introduced M235i coupé at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the sidelines of this week’s CES event, the new system has been developed by BMW’s forward-thinking Technik division in Munich, Germany as part of an on-going program that aims to make selected future models fully autonomous by the end of the decade.
It's a crucial deadline, as that's when vital juristic changes to road worthiness laws across the globe are expected to allow such technology to be introduced to regular production cars.
Touting state-of-the-art computer processing and the sort of GPS technology used in the latest guided-missile systems, BMW’s latest autonomous driving-assistant system actively takes part in the driving process, operating the accelerator, steering and brakes fully independent of the driver, who if free to sit back or attend to other chores, even during tail out cornering and smoke-inducing burnouts.
With new ultra-sonic radar and 360-degree stereo camera technology, BMW’s autonomous driving assistant is also intelligent enough to change lanes to overtake slower vehicles and then pull back in when the manoeuvre is completed – all without any prompting or action on the part of the physical driver. With special programing, BMW’s latest autonomous driving assistant will even show you the optimal line around a race track, accelerating hard down straights and lining up corner apexes perfectly.
Despite the obvious promise of the new system, which has already undergone over 9000 miles of testing on roads around BMW’s headquarters in Munich, officials involved in its development say current road worthiness laws prohibit many of the features being brought into production.
“It is going to take a combined effort with all key players and definitive juristic changes before the safety benefits of autonomous driving can be realised,” says BMW.