The driver is this BMW's co-pilot

BMW is testing an autonomous 5-series that doesn't need the driver for anything except to start the car.

Testing out the autonomous BMW 5-series on the A9 motorway from Munich to Nuremberg.
Testing out the autonomous BMW 5-series on the A9 motorway from Munich to Nuremberg. BMW

Most BMW owners consider it a sacrilege to let someone else drive their cars, let alone take the driver out of the equation entirely. After all, the reason you buy a BMW in the first place is because you like to drive. But BMW is testing an autonomous 5-series that doesn't need a human pilot for anything except to start the car.

Researchers on BMW's Highly Automated Driving project have clocked more than 2,700 miles in a self-driving BMW 5-series sedan in Germany. The vehicle is equipped with advanced decision-making software, GPS, maps, cameras, and sensors that figure out where it is and how to get to its destination. Like other autonomous vehicles being tested by some technology and automotive companies, the vehicle can make room for merging traffic and pass vehicles on the road. The autonomous 5-series travels up to 70 mph, while observing speed, traffic laws, and passing zones.

For several years, BMW has been developing autonomous driving systems, such as the BMW TrackTrainer and the Emergency Stop Assistant, on which the autonomous sedan's technology is based. The BMW TrackTrainer uses cameras, GPS, and digital maps to drive itself around a race track, following the line a professional driver would take around the course. The Emergency Stop Assistant can detect when a driver has lost control of the vehicle, and safely guide the vehicle to the side of the road, bring it to a stop, enable the emergency lights, and alert emergency response services.

However, the system isn't ready for prime time. The next phase for the self-driving BMW is to teach it how to deal with construction zones. In the meantime, BMW announced that its upcoming i3 electric city car will be equipped with advanced technology features, such as Traffic Jam Assistant. Traffic Jam Assistant is a semi-autonomous technology that can steer the i3 and maintain appropriate speed and distance between vehicles. The system works at speeds up to 20 miles per hour, and is able to stop the car if necessary. The i3 will also be able to park itself.

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