A semi-autonomous BMW 5 Series, on the highway outside of MunichEnlarge Photo
In mid-2011, BMW demonstrated its semi-autonomous capabilities on the A9 highway between Munich and Nuremberg. The trip was completed without driver intervention, and the vehicle demonstrated was able to accelerate, brake, overtake other vehicles, monitor traffic flow and adhere to all traffic laws.
The brand’s history with autonomous cars goes back even further. In October of 2009, BMW ran an automated lap of the Nürburgring Nordschliefe, with a human driver onboard just for back up. In May of 2011, BMW showed off its self-driving capabilities with the TrackTrainer, which showed students the ideal line around Laguna Seca.
To further develop its autonomous capabilities, BMW has just announced a partnership with automotive technology supplier Continental, who’s already licensed to operate autonomous cars in Nevada.
The agreement between BMW and Continental will run from 2013 through 2014, with the goal of jointly developing electronic systems for autonomous driving, to be implemented by the year 2020.
Ultimately, BMW hopes that such driver assistance systems will eventually lead to what it’s calling “Vision Zero (Accident Free Mobility).” While that goal may be decades away, semi-autonomous systems like Traffic Jam Assistant will be important milestones along the way.
Over the next two years, BMW and Continental plan to develop several highly-automated prototypes, which will then be tested by a collaborative team of trained participants, BMW is already calling the systems “near-production,” which likely means they’ll be appearing in BMW vehicles long before 2020.
The future, perhaps, is even closer than we care to admit, assuming that governing bodies and insurance companies can resolve the legal and logistical barriers surrounding autonomous vehicles.