BMW is using the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to showcase its latest wave of driver assistance technologies, coming to a BMW near you soon. The new technology ranges from systems to simply make your life a little easier, to ones that could help prevent an accident--hopefully enhancing your BMW ownership experience a little longer.

As far as comfort and convenience are concerned, two main new features make an appearance. The first is one wev'e seen on some other vehicles already: Parking Assistant. As the name suggests, it can park your car entirely autonomously, with control over the gas and brake pedals, switching between forward and reverse gears, and handling the steering. A network of ultrasound sensors ensure the space is of sufficient size, and the car handles the controls to slot you in.

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Traffic Jam Assistant is, if anything, even more useful. Sadly, it can't prevent you getting stuck in a jam, but could make your life more pleasant when you find yourself stuck in endless lines on the freeway. At speeds of up to 25 mph, the system's cameras detect traffic ahead, allowing the car to essentially operate autonomously in long lines. Not only will the car accelerate and decelerate itself, as many adaptive cruise control systems offer, but it handles steering too, keeping the car within its lane.

That's not to say you can read a book as you're going down the freeway or crawling through the city--it'll only operate up to that 40 mph limit, requires both a car in front of you and visible lane markings, and requires your hands on the wheel to work--but once engaged the system is able to cut in whenever these parameters are met. That means that in traffic climbing to 60 mph and slowing back down to 30 mph (for example), your lower-speed driving can be handled by the car.

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Among the new safety systems is the long-winded Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking. Between 6 and 37 mph, the system uses the aforementioned camera--mounted just below the rear-view mirror--to scan the road ahead. If a pedestrian or stationary vehicle is detected, it can emit an audible and visible signal to warn the driver. Should the driver fail to react by braking or steering away from the hazard, the car can brake itself to minimize or prevent a potential impact.

BMW says cameras are used, rather than typical radar systems, as they offer a wider field of view and are better for detecting stationary obstacles. It does require more ambient light than a radar-based system, the benefits--particularly at city speeds--make the systems more relevant for less expensive, more city-bound vehicles. As a result, BMW is including them as an option in the new BMW i3 electric car, in some markets.


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