BMW today reiterated on Autonomous Driving and the future of driving without a pilot or self-driving vehicle. Over the course of recent years, the BMW has already demonstrated the basic essentials needed for autonomous driving at various events, for example; the self-driven 3 Series at Hockenheim in 2006, automated prototypes in 2011, more automated prototypes at the Las Vegas Speedway in 2014, and the introduction of the BMW VIsion Next 100.

The BMW Vision Next 100 is a visionary vehicle that incorporates all of the automated functions, at the same time as helping owners to manage their daily routine. BMW has in the meantime gone one step further: as a result of its acquisition of a stake in HERE in 2014 and it collaborations with Intel, Mobileye (since 2016) and other partners, BMW has given the go-ahead for developing the BMW iNext for series production.

Back in 2006, the first self-driving Track Trainer, a BMW 3 Series, lapped the Hockenheimring while following the racing line. Then in 2011, highly automated test cars were driven on the A9 motorway in Germany. In the subsequent CES shows (Consumer Electronics Show) from 2014 – 16, BMW premiered the Drift Assistant, 360° collision prevention  and Remote Valet Parking Assistant on the BMW i3, and Automated Gesture Control Parking also with the BMW i3.

From today until post-2020, BMW has already embarked on Driver assistance systems level 2 by introducing preliminary stage of automated driving. Once level 3 is reached, it will be possible for driver and vehicle to share the responsibility for controlling the vehicle for the first time. During highly automated driving in traffic that is moving in the same direction and is segregated from oncoming traffic, the driver will be able to perform secondary in-vehicle activities for longer periods of time or relax. They must still be in a position to take over the task of driving again within a reasonable amount of time (a few seconds) when prompted to by the system.

For level 3, a whole series of technological requirements is required and is only made possible by the perfect interaction of each and every component. To this end, the individual sensors relay data, which is then amalgamated to produce a 360° environment model of the vehicle’s surroundings. Based on this, the driving strategy software computes the necessary driving manoeuvres.

Fully automated driving will be the next evolution in 2021 (level 4) and post-2020 (level 5). For example; ‘the driver can sleep during long-distance journeys if necessary. The time span for taking over control again is far longer than the previous level. Autonomous driving, steering wheel and pedals no longer absolutely necessary, passengers sit in the vehicle without any involvement in the task of driving;. Assuming the vehicle is fitted with pedals and a steering, the driver may take over the task of driving if they wish but will never be obliged to do so.

In preparation for this Autonomous driving vision, BMW premiered the 7 Series at the 2017 CES and test drove some 40 units of the 7 Series with automated functionality in the U.S.A., Israel and Germany. Soon, the Brand will come up with the first highly-automated series vehicle (level 3), the BMW iNext, due in 2021. BMW iNext will be BMW’s first venture into highly-automated driving.