BMW makes self-drive car with Active Cruise Control

Interesting | October 10th, 2010 by 6
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Technology has changed, changes and will always change our lives. Looking back only ten years ago, one can only appreciate the technology advancements that took …

Technology has changed, changes and will always change our lives. Looking back only ten years ago, one can only appreciate the technology advancements that took place across industries, and especially, in the automotive world. From safety features to increased comfort and better fuel efficiency, technology has managed to change the way we drive and interact with cars.

BMW, among other premium automakers, lead the innovation stream and push the envelope further and further. Latest futuristic feature currently under-development comes to increase driver safety. Built under the label Active Cruise Control, the technology allows the car to follow the curve of the motorway without any driver input.

Sensors placed in the steering wheel react with a sound warning when the driver removes his hands. According to BMW, future enhancements could allow complete automatic drive of the car. Input the final destination and the car could potentially use all the sensors and 360 degrees cameras to drive you to the final destination.

bmw active cruise control 5 655x436Of course, further implications could slow down the adoption of this system, beginning with strict safety regulations and regulatory laws that until now, has seen the car as a mean of transport under the control of a human being.

Let’s have a look at how BMW describes their Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go function.

Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function (ACC Stop & Go) not only maintains the desired distance to the vehicle in front, it also brakes the car‟s speed in heavy traffic down to a standstill. But wouldn‟t it be useful if the car could also actively control the steering, especially in more mundane situations such as traffic jams and queues? BMW Group Research and Technology experts working as part of the “Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant” research project are focusing on giving the car the abil ity to steer itself in order to help drivers stay in their lane. The intervention of the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant makes life easier for the driver in comparatively
tedious situations – from 0 km/h right through to 130 km/h.

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A car that can think and steer.

The experts at BMW Group Research and Technology have extended the reach of ACC Stop & Go to include a “lateral guidance” function – the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant. Taking the vehicle in front of them as a reference point, drivers can use the system to determine the distance between them and their own top speed – in the same way as with Active Cruise Control.

The difference is that the car can now also actively control the steering. Further development of the camera technology already in use today enables the car to anticipate the path of the road ahead on the basis of the road markings and automatically carry out minor corrections in its line. However, there are limits to what the video-based sensors can do. Automated driving is not yet possible (or desirable) through corners of a certain tightness, as drivers should not be relinquishing the task of driving the car; technology should merely help them fulfil this task. For this reason, every time the research vehicle comes to a halt, the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant requires the driver to reconfirm “longitudinal guidance”, i.e. resumption of the journey with the system switched on. The system is only active when the driver has his hands on the steering wheel. Equally, though, he can deactivate this steering assistance by starting to change lane, either through a clear steering movement or by switching on the indicator.

“Our aim is to assist drivers in tricky driving situations, but without taking the responsibility for driving the car out of their hands.” Dr .Thomas Schaller, joint head of the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant project with Dr. Nico Kämpchen.


The Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant complements the proximity control function of ACC by actively introducing steering inputs to correct the car‟s line. These interventions can be clearly felt through the steering wheel, which is why the driver has to keep his hands on the wheel at all times in order to use the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant. If his hands come away from the wheel, the system is automatically deactivated and the driver is given a clear alert. The function can only be reactivated once the driver has his hands back on the wheel. This safety mechanism is designed to ensure that the driver is not tempted to drive with no hands, but is ready to take action at any time.

If a corner is too tight or the system reaches its limits due to insufficient road markings, the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant prompts the driver to take over full driving duties once again and switches itself off. The status of the system and this driver alert are flashed up within the driver‟s direct field of view both in the instrument cluster and on the Head-Up Display.

A highly automated view of the future.

Although the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant is still at the research project stage as things stand, it is allowing the engineers to build up important real-world experience on the technology‟s lateral guidance capability and to gradually explore its limits. The research is certainly heading in a clear direction. In the future, vehicles capable of a high level of automated driving in traffic tailbacks, in particular, would be a very attractive proposition. Up to certain speeds, this would allow the driver to work on emails or call up multimedia applications, for example. Heterogeneous and redundant sensors – i.e. the simultaneous use of radar, camera and laser scanners – could link up with extremely accurate digital maps to transform this idea into a reality.

“Technically, we are already very close to real ising this vision, as systems such as the BMW TrackTrainer and Emergency Stop Assistant show. However, many issues surrounding the technology still need to be clarified, and we‟re looking into these with our prototypes.” Dr. Nico Kämpchen, joint head of the Traffic Jam and Queuing Assistant project with Thomas Schaller.

6 responses to “BMW makes self-drive car with Active Cruise Control”

  1. Daniel Hoang says:

    Since when did we started driving Computers. This isnt ” Ultimate Driving Machine” All this Assist stuff is ruining the BMW image. Stick to the Basics BMW.

    • M5POWER says:

      BMW has been doing this since a looong time ago and the first prototype was tested on a BMW 3-Series in 2007 and was test driven by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. He said it was good and want Jaguar to make exactly the same thing!

      You should compliment BMW for capable of doing things like this while others are still working around how to get the system working.

  2. minifan says:

    It’s great to see BMW are working on this technology. As far as the “Ultimate Driving Machine” this function will join the other many options (Lane change warning, etc) that you don’t have to use if you don’t want to….

    Can’t wait……

  3. Peter Louies says:

    It is clear that we are moving to an period of changes where the driver is less in control, is less needed, and where the car is becoming really the driver.

    Now we will see some features like the self-parking car, remote controlled parking and some stuff but eventually it will turn out in the future that a car will drive itself and that human interaction will be very limited.

  4. wazon8 says:

    It’s interesting thing to watch as it was in 2007 in Top Gear and it’s interesting application of technology developed in other places for a bit different reasons, but I would never buy a car featured with such option.

    @Daniel: developement of this kind of technology need not to amount to dropping Ultimate Driving Machine image. Remember that BMW is working on new Mega City brand and perhaps self-driving cars will be something that customers could demand in future. It’s better for BMW developement not to overlook this future opportunity to generate more profits.

    As for your complaint on more and more technology on a board. Well, times change, most of BMW customers are not enthusiast and BMW must face their requirements, some of which can be met by adding some technologies. Car makers simply have to adapt to this trend of market or die. Hard to blame BMW here for something.

  5. BIMMER1 says:

    My opinion is this is another useless function that 5% of buyers will use and the other 95% will be too confused about how to use it to even bother with it. Thus, it’s a waste of time and money to develop such a feature. Plus it’s just more weight and more things that WILL break and cause issues. Hell, you can’t even change a battery in most new BMW’s without programming the vehicle to tell it that you installed a new battery. Otherwise the newly installed battery gets overchaged and dies, with no warranty coverage since it wasn’t installed “properly”. What should be a simple 1 hour install for something like a sat radio or ipod interface can take anywhere from 2-7 hours because the car needs programmed as part of the install, but all subsequent control units in the vehicle may require programming before you can do that. It’s great that they have the capability to do these things, but what about their capability to just build a car instead of a ridiculous computer on wheels. They are going soft on us and have been for a while now. It’s really a shame, but as I get older I feel that a Porsche may be in my future, whereas 3-5 years ago I never would have said that.

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