Back in September, BMW announced they received approval from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority for autonomous driving at speeds of up to 60 km/h on motorways. This new level of driving assistances systems primarily pertains to situations involving traffic jams and slow-moving traffic, where the vehicle assumes responsibility.

In an interview with former head of the Driving Experience, Nikolai Martin, we learned that Level 3 might not be coming soon in the U.S. market. “We don’t have the pressure to roll out Level 3 to all regions as fast as possible because we have a very attractive, convenient offer with that Highway System,” said Martin at the time. But that might be changing. In a new interview today with BMW executives, we learned that the company is not ruling out Level 3 for the U.S. market.

Level 3 Brings More Complexities, Higher Data

With Level 3, the complexity is higher, from a hardware point of view, because you need to integrate your data and data is very expensive,” said the BMW representative. “It’s not an industrial feature, so you have to scale this first of all to learn how to generate economies of scale. So the Level 3 functionalities will be very complex, you can go to up to 44,000 scenarios,” he aded. “Also, you need to see if there is a potential buyer or potential customers for that. So the reason why we are starting with Germany is because Germany is our closest market. And second, we have seen the use cases in Germany being way higher than in the United States. But definitely, there are plans to roll out the Level 3 functionality, but now it’s the first step. So first speed limit, first market etc.”

Up To 60 km/h

To achieve near-zero accident rates, the incorporation of costly lidar sensors is essential, leading to a premium of several thousand euros for the required specialized equipment. The existing speed limit of 60 km/h is evidently a transitional phase, with future intentions to enhance these systems to function at higher speeds. In the next few years, Level 3 functionality could be attainable at speeds reaching up to 130 km/h.

From a regulatory perspective, Level 3 also means that liability in the event of an accident shifts to the vehicle itself. BMW will allegedly assume responsibility for any resultant damages. A similar system is currently only available from Mercedes-Benz, offering a comparable traffic jam pilot at Level 3 autonomy.

The newest Level 3 software and hardware debuts on the 7 Series in Germany later this year. But it doesn’t stop there. Next year, BMW plans to roll out Level 3 in Germany in other BMW models as well, like the 5 Series, X5, X6, and X7, 7 Series, iX.”