Page Overview: The Road to Autonomous Driving
BMW i4
Driving experience

Driving experience

Today, driving is much more than working the steering wheel, accelerator and brake. Driving is an experience. Connected, convenient and increasingly automated. Intelligent systems and innovative solutions support customers in every driving situation. The driving dynamics adapt to the needs of the drivers, intelligent functions provide control and safety – even in challenging moments. The BMW Group has been promoting research into the driving experience 4.0 since the 1990s. This includes a unique relationship between human and machine and deep integration of the vehicle into an everyday customer life shaped by mobility The future is not a vision at the BMW Group, it has already begun. 

Five steps to the driving experience of the future.

autonomous driving

Level 1: Assisted driving

Since the invention of the automobile in 1886, the motto has been: “driver only” – the driver was on their own. With the dawn of the new century, the driver receives assistance. Today, intelligent driver assistance systems are already used in many cars and provide more safety and convenience. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) plays a central role in this Level 1. In its different expansion stages it senses the vehicle in front with the aid of radar sensors and cameras and ensures that preselected speeds and distance settings are not violated. Adaptive Cruise Control supports the vehicle driver in certain situations and increases the driving comfort. The term “driver assistance system” enters the lexicon.


Level 2: Partially automated driving

As of now driver assistance systems can take over even more of the driver’s tasks, if the driver wants this and the driving situation permits. However, the driver must continuously monitor the systems. The sophisticated driver assistance systems enable greater automation of the driving task through an advanced sensor system, which significantly increases safety, convenience and efficiency for the driver. Steering and Lane Control Assistants can brake, accelerate and even temporarily take over steering autonomously, for example to keep the vehicle in its lane or also for driverless parking. This is made possible by a high-resolution camera (8Mpix) and multiple radar sensors that sense the vehicle’s surroundings and detect both lane boundaries as well as vehicles driving in front. The BMW Highway Assistant permits hands-off driving already today in some countries at speeds up to 60 km/h (USA, Canada, Japan, China). In the USA and Canada, this will even be possible at speeds of  up to 130 km/h in the future. The driver can thus keep their hands off the wheel, but must continue to observe the traffic situation and be able to intervene.


Level 3: Highly automated driving

If certain requirements are met, the driver can direct their attention permanently from the traffic situation, for example during extended periods of motorway driving. However, even then the driver must still be able to take over control again within a few seconds. The technological jump from Level 2 to Level 3 is extremely challenging and at BMW is based on a comprehensive safety concept. The only way to negotiate the complex traffic situations is with the best sensor system, a real-time-capable HD card and a precise and reliable way of capturing reality.


Level 4: Fully automated driving

The system masters driving on certain routes or in certain areas completely independently, the driver temporarily becomes the passenger. The driver no longer has to monitor the system and can do other things during the journey. For particular route sections for which the system is not yet designed, the driver is additionally prompted in good time to take over control again. If they do not do this, the vehicle will bring them to a safe state by stopping in a parking space, for example. The driver must still have a valid driver licence and be fit to drive at this level. An integral part of the BMW Group’s self-image here too is that the customer decides whether they want to drive themselves or would like to be driven.


Level 5: Autonomous driving

The car is guided fully by the system and handles all the tasks required for this autonomously. The autonomous car can handle even complex situations like crossing a junction, going through a roundabout or the correct behaviour on a zebra crossing. There is no car driver any more, only passengers.


Our most important stops on the way to the future.

Collage "Der Morgen stirbt nie"
1997 Autonomous in Hollywood.

In "Tomorrow Never Dies", James Bond futuristically steered his BMW through a parking garage - from his mobile phone. Audiences loved the image of a car with no driver. Back then, it came straight out of Q's bag of spy tricks; today, cars like the BMW 7 Series can be parked automatically by remote control.

BMW TrackTrainer
2006 The ideal line, automatically.

BMW presents the BMW Track Trainer for the first time. The technology helps the vehicle to master the Hockenheimring at race pace on the ideal line. The Track Trainer also provides the basis for further automated driving development projects.

Mit 130 km/h über die A9
2011 Highly automated driving on the A9.

BMW starts testing highly automated research vehicles on the A9 in 2011. The technology for this comes from enhancements to the Track Trainer and the Emergency Stop Assistant.

Forschungsfahrzeug auf Basis eines BMW 2er Coupé
2014 Highly automated at the limit.

A research vehicle based on the BMW 2 Series Coupé uses the technology of highly automated driving up to the limit. At CES, BMW is able to showcase autonomous drifting with this vehicle. The stunt is made possible by highly sensitive sensors on the vehicle.

BMW i3 beim Einparken
2015 Parked.

For the first time, BMW parks a BMW i3 dynamically and safely without a driver in Las Vegas. This is made possible by the 360° collision avoidance technology and the Remote Valet Parking Assistant.

Mann mit BMW 7er vor Garage
2016 Production sensor system.

The BMW 7 Series manoeuvres into parking spaces and garages without a driver. The vehicle can steer itself on motorways at speeds up to 210 km/h. Cameras, radar sensors and ultrasonic sensors allow the vehicle to sense its surroundings fully.

BMW i Inside Future
2017 The vision takes shape.

At the CES 2017, we unveiled our vision of the vehicle of the future with the BMW i Inside Future sculpture: The design of the vehicle interior and its operating system are entirely geared towards fully-automated driving. The vehicle is also seamlessly integrated with the driver's digital lifestyle.

2018 Research rethought.

In April 2018 the BMW Group opens the Autonomous Driving Campus, where talents from a wide range of fields research the self-driving vehicle with a new method of collaboration. The campus is a pioneering development site with state-of-the-art workplaces and intelligent IT infrastructure that combines all the development steps in one place.

2019 Data-driven.

Making automated and autonomous driving manageable and offering customers the best possible driving experience calls for the right competences in dealing with anonymised development and customer data. The BMW Group High Performance D3 platform forms the basis for this. The “D3” in the IT platform name stands for data-driven development. It is a high-performance data platform with more than 230 petabytes of memory capacity as well as a computer platform with more than 100,000 processor cores and more than 200 GPUs (Graphics Processing Units).

2020 Perfectly simulated.

With the new Driving Simulation Centre, the BMW Group creates all the possibilities for its vehicle development and research activities to test and simulate the production requirements of the future in a realistic way. With 14 simulators and usability labs on an area of 11,400 m², it is the most modern and flexible simulation centre in the automotive industry.

2021 A toolkit for the future.

A new technology toolkit is used for the first time in the BMW iX. With this, the vehicles of the BMW Group are taking a further step towards highly automated and autonomous driving. The new technology toolkit enables continuous improvement and expansion of the assistance functions (Level 2) – and in the medium term Level 3 in the new BMW 7 Series.

AD Test Center Sokolov
2022 Strategic investment in our future.

The first driving tests take place in the Future Mobility Development Center (FMDC) of the BMW Group in Sokolov in 2022. The complete startup is planned for 2023. The FMDC offers the BMW Group’s development engineers the most varied use cases for testing partially and fully automated driving – from driving manoeuvres in open spaces to journeys in an urban environment to country roads and motorway sections, all conceivable scenarios can be reproduced.

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Driving dynamics.

Perfect position in corners, stability in every situation and, at the same time, utmost agility. The BMW Group is continually enhancing driving dynamics with a multitude of technological innovations. All parts of the vehicle are integrated into a single unit and all control units constantly exchange data with each other. In this way, traction, agility and driving stability can be optimally controlled at all times. The result is a unique driving experience that shapes the driving sensation as a signature feature – for the ultimate driving pleasure for which BMW is known.

BMW M240


BMW 325i E30

The BMW Group launches the permanent all-wheel-drive with the BMW 325i. The power transmission to all four wheels serves not only to optimise traction on unpaved ground and in adverse weather conditions, but also for more driving dynamics in corners from the beginning.


Servotronic hits the market for the first time with the BMW 7 Series and offers drivers variable steering assistance that is matched to the speed and the driver’s need. This ensures greater directional stability at high speeds and more steering assistance at low speeds. With the electronically controlled shock absorbers for each individual wheel introduced at the same time, the driver can choose between comfortable and sporty damping and the respective driving experience delivered by each. Automatic Stability Control (ASC) meanwhile holds the vehicle steady in its line – whether driving straight ahead or cornering.


The BMW 8 Series Coupé has a lively rear axle. The rear-axle wheels steer in the same direction as the steering wheel up to a maximum steering angle of three degrees. The active rear-axle kinematics ensure more driving stability. Starting from 1992, the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) in the BMW 8 Series Coupé detects critical driving conditions. The DSC ensures high stability and greater safety in such situations through interventions in the engine management system.


The BMW 5 Series is the first to feature a solid aluminium suspension and thus offers even more agility, sporting character and comfort.


Improved braking stability: in the BMW 7 Series/BMW 5 Series, Dynamic Brake Control is used for this. During full braking, it boosts the build-up of brake pressure and thus always ensures the shortest possible braking distance. The BMW 5 Series is accompanied by the introduction of Cornering Brake Control, a driver assistance system, which supports the driver during gentle braking in corners driven at high speed through an asymmetrical pressure distribution between the left and right vehicle brakes.


Superior hill descent control: the Hill Descent Control introduced with the first BMW X5 supports the driver by automatically maintaining the desired speed during steep descents. This allows the driver to concentrate fully on steering, for example when reversing downhill on surfaces with poor grip.

Outstanding comfort and a variable vehicle level for difficult terrain: the introduction of the 2-axle air suspension in the Sports Activity Vehicle X5 guarantees the utmost comfort and greatest possible ground clearance even on unpaved roads. Equipped with a self-levelling suspension, the air suspension maintains the vehicle at a constant level regardless of the load status. This means that the full spring travel is available at all times, for maximum comfort. At the same time the vehicle can be raised, for example on unpaved roads or for steep garage exits, in order to increase the ground clearance.

BMW xDrive

With the BMW X3, the xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive system celebrates its premiere and ensures optimum driving dynamics and traction by continuously and variably distributing the driving power between the front and rear axles within fractions of a second. xDrive is the next chapter in BMW’s evolution of the all-wheel drive. At slow driving speeds, for example in cities, when parking and on winding roads, the active steering of the BMW 5 Series increases the steering lock. The driver can complete the tightest manoeuvres with a small turn of the wheel, without having to change grip.


At slow driving speeds, for example in cities, when parking and on winding roads, the active steering of the BMW 5 Series increases the steering lock. The driver can complete the tightest manoeuvres with a small turn of the wheel, without having to change grip.

Aktive Rollstabilisierung

The BMW 7 Series offers a real highlight when it comes to driving dynamics: Adaptive Drive. A combination of electronically controlled dampers and active roll stabilisation. As a result, body roll during cornering is reduced. At the same time, the possibilities of active roll stabilisation are combined with electronically controlled shock absorbers in order to perfectly adapt the wheel to the particular situation at all times.

Dynamic Performance Control

More agility? Dynamic Performance Control offers this in the BMW X6. This system enables continuous lateral distribution of the drive torque between the rear wheels. This not only further enhances the stability and traction, but also increases the vehicle agility. Corners can be negotiated more dynamically, with reduced steering effort and an extended limit range.

Variable Sportlenkung

BMW increases both driving comfort and agility in the X3 with variable sport steering. The more direct ratio reduces the overall steering angle, which helps to increase comfort during driving manoeuvres involving large steering wheel angles (e.g. during parking, cornering or turning). It also makes for a more direct vehicle response and higher agility. This comes into play during avoidance manoeuvres, for example.

M Sportdifferenzial

The front-axle differential lock increases driving dynamics in the BMW X2, meaning that active brake interventions are not needed until much later. The drive power distribution thus contributes to a significant increase in driving stability as well as driving dynamics. In addition, traction is increased both for straight-line driving and cornering.

Integriertes Bremssystem BMW 8er

The continuous further development of the driver assistance systems as well as the electrification of the powertrain represent ever greater challenges to current brake systems. To reduce the complexity while at the same time enhancing the functionality, a completely new brake system is introduced: the integrated braking system. A special feature of this brake system is the decoupling of the driver from the wheel brake hydraulics. Brake systems with this feature are called electro-hydraulic “brake-by-wire” brake systems.

MINI Stossdaempfer

Driving pleasure and safety benefit from a new shock absorber technology used for the first time at the BMW Group with the reworking of the MINI: the frequency-selective shock absorption adapts masterfully to any unevenness in the road and in this way efficiently resolves the conflict between comfort and sporting character.

BMW 7er

Maximum body stability: the Executive Drive Pro option including the Active Roll Comfort function used for the first time in the new BMW 7 Series delivers a superior, comfortable and at the same time agile driving experience. The suspension control in combination with adaptive 2-axle air suspension, four electronically controlled shock absorbers (one for each wheel) and the active roll stabilisation at the front and rear axles offers a completely new level of driving and travel comfort.

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