BMW’s significant autonomous driving improvement for the 7 Series equals Mercedes-Benz’s.:The big German companies are working towards level 3 autonomous driving.
According to an announcement made by BMW, the new 7 Series will come equipped with a far higher degree of autonomous driving capability starting in March 2024. Currently only accessible in Germany, the system can be bought starting in December to be installed in March of the following year. However, the manufacturer intends to expand its availability to more markets as soon as legal permits.
Dubbed the BMW Personal Pilot L3, the device enables “drivers to redirect their focus to other in-vehicle activities” and is a “first of its kind” according to BMW. It achieves autonomous driving functionality up to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Level 3, which is an industry standard that grades driving automation from Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (basically, just falling asleep and leaving the car do all the work).
Technically speaking, Mercedes-Benz already offers a Drive Pilot system in some S-Class and EQS vehicles, so the “first” claim isn’t quite accurate. However, BMW claims this is the first of its kind because it now offers both SAE Level 2 (which was originally introduced in the new 5 Series) and this. Its SAE Level 2 Highway Assistant can change lanes on its own with just the driver’s eye confirmation.
It has taken a while for this third level of hands-free/eyes-off driving to become available. Tesla’s Autopilot technology is still just SAE Level 2, which means that even when the driver’s hands are off the wheel, they still need to maintain complete control and keep their eyes on the road, despite what the company claims in its marketing materials.
The main distinction with this Level 3 autonomous driving technology is that it allows drivers to refocus on other tasks, including “editing emails” or “participating more deeply in telephone calls,” as suggested by BMW. Key to all long-distance commuters’ dreams, the BMW Personal Pilot Level 3 allows you to access digital services like streaming media from different suppliers.
BMW has taken great care to avoid using expressions like “crack open the popcorn and enjoy a movie marathon” or “binge your favourite boxset” because the driver must still be prepared to take control as soon as the system detects an unstable section of the road. Additionally, since some requirements are no longer being met, human involvement might be necessary. When it’s time for human intervention, indications will appear in both aural and visual forms.
Similar to Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot, which has also been approved in Germany, California, and Nevada, BMW’s Personal Pilot L3 is subject to a few pretty stringent requirements before it can be turned on (via a button located on the steering wheel).
Traffic is only allowed on motorways with physically divided carriageways and cannot exceed 60 km/h (37 mph). If you don’t recall any of that, don’t worry. According to BMW, the system uses a real-time HD map that is broadcast together with precise GPS, 360-degree ultrasonic, radar, and three-dimensional lidar sensors to “ensure the exact positioning and monitoring of the area around the vehicle”.
BMW’s high-tech optional extra costs €6,000 (about $6,423 / £5,236) and may be ordered starting in December. The German carmaker has not stated when it will be available in other markets.