The Verge goes to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to experience a BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe self-driving car.
BMW has created a new kind of research prototype for highly automated driving which uses advanced control technology to demonstrate maximum safety up to the car’s dynamic limit. Self-driving prototype vehicles will highlight the effectiveness of a new generation of control systems on the closed-off track. These systems actively intervene in the direction-changing decision-making process and ensure the electronically controlled steering works in perfect harmony with the brakes and accelerator.
As such they go a crucial step further than current systems, which react to the onset of understeer or oversteer with carefully calculated braking inputs.
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And so, yes, that’s how I ended up with my stomach in my throat, drifting a beautiful 6 Gran Coupe around a curve. The asphalt was even hosed down with water just to make things a little more interesting (as if they weren’t interesting enough already). It’s the exact opposite of the stereotypical Google self-driving Prius plodding down a sunny California interstate at a reasonable speed.
The demonstration was an exclamation point that researchers in the auto industry are starting to get a handle on making self-driving cars practical (and safe) in even non-optimal driving conditions, but there’s still lots of work to do: BMW researchers programmed the car specifically to navigate this track. That’s a lot different from driving onto a highway on-ramp and hitting a patch of black ice.