When the driver becomes a passenger.

31. October 2018
ca. 2 minutes

The first BMW debuted on the market in 1929. Since then, sheer driving pleasure has been transformed many times over. We now drive cars that can park themselves, stay in their lane – even brake for us in dangerous situations. And, in the future? Soon, we will also be able to decide whether to drive for ourselves or be driven – thanks to autonomous vehicles. But did you know it can also be fun? That is what most amazed people at a closed test circuit in Berlin in October, when they took a self-driving prototype of a BMW i3 (Level 4/5) for a spin.

Many BMW Group models already come with a whole host of innovative and partially-automated assistance systems that pave the way for autonomous driving. But they don’t just make driving safer and more convenient – they also make it more enjoyable. Technologies such as collision and pedestrian warning systems, steering and lane control as well as speed assistants, relieve the driver of his driving task.This makes both driving and parking easier, as sensors and cameras lend the driver a helping hand. Assistance systems are so good at remote parking these days, in fact, the driver doesn’t even need to be in the car anymore. 

Drivers have grown to love these new functions. They show just how much future technology already goes into many BMW Group models. But when it comes to a self-driving car, where they are just a passenger – most are still somewhat sceptical. 

“It’s all about how much trust we are willing to place in the car,” explains Dr. Levent Ekiz, developer autonomous driving at the BMW Group. “It’s like the first day of driving school, where we have to learn to trust the car and its functions – the brakes, the gears, our ability to steer it. It’s no different with an autonomous vehicle. It’s our job as an innovation leader to build this trust level by level.”

So, what is it actually like to drive a prototype with Level 5 automation? To be honest, pretty exciting. Because the “sheer driving pleasure” starts even before you get in. Instead of just walking to your car and unlocking it, you use your smartphone to summon the BMW i3 to wherever you are. It’s a strange feeling, taking a seat in the back instead of behind the wheel. But as soon as you tap your finger on the display in the centre console, when the engine starts and the steering wheel begins turning by itself, any remaining doubts are overcome and you’ll soon have a big smile on your face. 

The vehicle naturally doesn’t start until all passengers have fastened their seatbelts – after all, safety still comes first, even in a self-driving car. The display can be used not only to change a destination or stop the car, but also to control many additional functions – such as locking the doors or accessing the entertainment programme. The BMW i3 is in sole control of all relevant vehicle functions.That might make your heart beat a little faster at first, but it also means you can use the drive time for other things – such as working, reading, sleeping or watching a film. Once you reach your destination, there’s no need to worry about parking either – you can just get out and let the BMW i3 find a space all by itself.

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But does this really paint a realistic picture of tomorrow’s mobility? It does – one of many possible scenarios, in fact. Autonomous vehicles could be used for carsharing or pick-up services, while privately-owned autonomous cars could also use their downtimes more efficiently and relieve city traffic as fleet vehicles. 

There is no fixed concept for future mobility. But innovations such as autonomous driving will fundamentally change how we get from A to B and how we live our lives. In the case of the BMW i3, this is just a prototype, but it does make one thing clear: The mobility of the future has been here for a while.

More BMW Group News.

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At this year’s Paris Motor Show, the “Mondial de l’Automobile 2018”, held in early October, the BMW Group showcased a number of innovative solutions, including the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. From March 2019, the intelligent digital driving companion will be available in selected BMW models, including the 3 Series, 8 Series, X5 Series and Z4 Series. It can help the driver operate the vehicle or find a parking space – and can also answer technical questions about the car.