Next year, BMW will launch its new generation of 7 Series. With it will come some drastic changes, including some highly controversial split headlights (can BMW not make a controversial design anymore?). However, one very big addition to the 2022 BMW 7 Series will be Level 3 autonomous driving.
While BMW won’t be the first automaker to introduce Level 3, it will be only one of two brands to have the tech. Audi launched Level 3 driving in Europe a few years back, in the current-gen A8 but gave up on the technology last year.
What is Level 3? In a nutshell, it’s when a car can drive itself, entirely on its own, under limited conditions, without the driver needing to pay attention to the road (though, the driver must be ready to take over in case they need to). Tesla may have tricked half the American population into thinking its Autopilot is Level 3 but it isn’t, it’s what’s typically considered “Level 2+”, like most other systems on the market at the moment. Which makes BMW’s debut of Level 3 in the 7 Series very interesting.
“Level 3 you will see from us in the 7 Series next year,” said Frank Weber, Director of Development for BMW. “It’s a function you can buy. It will be ready to go at the launch of the 7 Series.”
According to Weber, the technology “stack” (the combination of hardware and software) that makes Level 3 possible comes from the BMW iX, so it wouldn’t surprise us to see the iX get the tech shortly after the 7er.
There’s a caveat, though — legislation. Euro regulations are strict on Level 3 and, currently, there’s no legislation in the U.S. for Level 3 autonomy, which is why Audi’s A8 couldn’t get its Level 3 here a few years back. European regulations allow for Level 3 autonomy and put the liability on the automakers’ insurance in case of a crash while the system is engaged. However, at the moment, there’s no U.S. legislation to cover such a crash, so don’t expect a Level 3 Bimmer in the ‘States any time soon.
What’s interesting is that Euro regulations don’t really like Level 2+ systems, such as Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise. Which is why Euro regs have forced Tesla to remove certain functions, such as the Summon feature, as they find them to be misleading. And considering most automakers are working on going straight to Level 4, skipping Level 3, due to the immense amount of testing needed for Level 3, BMW doesn’t expect much competition.
“In the next years you will not see a single launch where somebody says here’s my car and it’s Level 3,” said Weber. “It takes 435 million miles simulated and in real life to say [that] our system drives safer than a human driver,” he continued. “When you have the vehicle introduction, with a stable product it takes at least a year to finalize Level 3.”
When the BMW 7 Series debuts, it will be the most advanced autonomous car in the world, genuinely taking the throne away from Tesla (Though, expect some sort of bombastic claim from Musk in the next hour or so, once he hears the news, lest his shareholders not hear him brag for thirty seconds). That will put another feather in the 7 Series’ hat, as it will likely also be the brand’s flagship luxury and technology car. We’re very interested to hear how this Level 3 tech pans out and whether it can meet the different regulations around the world.