Let’s face it – it will probably take decades until automakers will offer truly autonomous cars that meet the level 5 criteria. BMW is heavily investing in self-driving tech and it recently launched a level 3 system for its flagship car, the 7 Series. To show off the latest advancements, it took the iX and M3 to the Austrian Alps and had them literally run around in circles on the snowy and icy roads, without anyone inside the cars. We also get to see the new BMW i5 drifting the snow, with a driver this time.

The fully electric SUV and high-performance sedan were controlled from afar, so the iX and M3 were basically huge RC cars that thankfully didn’t crash into each other. All jokes aside, the intent is to show driverless cars can also work in less-than-ideal situations when the roads are slippery. We reckon BMW decided to test the work-in-progress tech on cars equipped with xDrive given the slippery surface.

It would seem BMW is preparing for a distant future in which it will adopt the “ultimate self-driving machine” slogan unless other automakers get there first. Lest we forget archrival Mercedes has also received level 3 certification for its S-Class, so it should be an interesting duel between the two German luxury brands. Of course, we mustn’t omit Tesla’s Autopilot, General Motors’ Ultra Cruise, Ford’s BlueCruise, and other advanced self-driving systems from major automakers.

As to what lies ahead, level 4 autonomy implies the vehicle can perform all the driving tasks but only under circumstances, and that human override is still possible. Level 5 means the car does everything under all conditions, without the need for human intervention. This full automation doesn’t require human attention, so in theory, cars don’t even need a steering wheel or pedal. That seems like a pipe dream for now, but with fun videos like this, BMW suggests it will be possible one day.

In the meantime, Personal Pilot L3 will be available to order in Germany as a €6,000 option for select 7 Series and i7 models. This level 3 system can be used at speeds of up to 37 mph (60 km/h) and it works even when it’s dark outside.

Source: BMW