Roughly two years ago, Mercedes-Benz announced the introduction of Level 3 autonomous driving features to its production vehicles. This was a massive step forward and meant that the inventor of the automobile became the first manufacturer to sell cars where—under certain circumstances—drivers could legally take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.
With the approval of German authorities and certain speed and location limitations in place, Chedeng pilots can already play on their phones or watch a movie while the car does all the driving. Naturally, the competition felt pressured to release the same functionality, and now BMW has finally managed to pull even with its Swabian rival.
Customers in Germany can now pay €6,000 (P363,000) extra for their new 7-Series, and when it gets delivered next March, it will feature Level 3 highly automated driving, which the company calls BMW Personal Pilot L3. The firm also claims to be the first carmaker to offer Level 2 and Level 3 capabilities in its product portfolio.
The main difference between the two levels is that on Level 2, the driver is still responsible for any actions of the car, while on Level 3, the vehicle slowly starts to morph into KITT.
At speeds of up to 60km/h, you can now legally check your e-mails or watch a movie on the in-car screen while the vehicle does all the heavy lifting.
The technology only works in Germany for now and only under certain circumstances. If the car travels into traffic it can’t deal with yet, the driver will be alerted and is expected to take over again. Ignoring the call for human interaction will result in the luxury limo coming to a controlled stop.
Getting a vehicle to drive itself in this way requires a ton of technology that includes a constantly updated HD navigation map, very precise GPS positioning, 360° sensors scanning the area around the car, a 5G link-up to the BMW cloud, as well as ultrasonic, radar and 3D LIDAR sensors.
The fact the Germans are throwing everything but the kitchen sink at this feature explains why they are way ahead of rivals such as Tesla now. Germany is also a country where this kind of tech can work relatively reliably.
German bureaucracy ensures that everything from traffic signs to lane markings and vehicle appearances is standardized, making it a little bit easier for the robotic driver to take the wheel.
Drivers in the Philippines will have to be a little more patient, as the computer that is able to cope with the challenges of Metro Manila traffic has not yet been invented.