It’s no secret that the biggest goal everyone in the automotive business is chasing after right now is autonomous driving, even though not everyone is excited about such a possibility. BMW has to take the trends into account and, even though the Bavarian company made a reputation for itself by offering great handling cars, they have to keep up with the rest of the industry.
So far, the latest BMW models are offering Level 2 autonomous functions to the customers. This means the cars can maintain a safe distance from the car ahead, keep you in lane and make driving in boring situations a lot easier. However, Level 2 also means you are still responsible for the car and have to be alert at all times, to make sure nothing goes wrong. Level 3 systems are not yet offered on a wider scale and there’s good reason for it: they aren’t exactly legal or 100% safe for now.
Level 3 autonomy means you can take your eyes off the road and your hand off the steering wheel and that implies a lot more trust in the car’s on-board systems than in the case of Level 2 versions. Speaking about Level 3 autonomous functions in a recent interview, Dr. Nicolai Martin, Senior Vice President Automated Driving Development BMW Group said it will come but only when it is 100% safe.
“We will not offer Level 3 functionality (where responsibility passes from human to machine) in our vehicles until it is absolutely safe and offers added value. The system must react safely in extreme situations – the “corner cases” as they are known. This is what we are striving to achieve,” he said. Martin also pointed out that some Level 4 features are already good to go, such as a car being able to look for a parking spot and park itself but they aren’t yet offered because of legal reasons.
But which car will be the first to have Level 3 support? According to Martin, the BMW iX, but not from the get go: “The BMW iX is the first model from the BMW Group to offer automated driving and parking functions based on a new technology toolkit. This toolkit will enable continuous improvement and expansion of the driver assistance functions and, in the medium term, highly automated driving (Level 3). We will continue with the rollout of the toolkit and deploy it, for example, in the next-generation BMW 7 Series and BMW 5 Series models.”
Therefore, the new iX will get there but it sounds like it won’t get these functions from the get go, namely this year. Furthermore, as we all expected, the functions the iX will get will then be introduced on other models as well, which is good news after all.