In January, BMW and automotive supplier Continental signed an agreement to develop a copilot system to support highly automated driving, more or less securing the future of a self-driving, self-aware car for the automaker and supplier. Through their research, both groups plan to have automated driving functions available by the year 2020. The goal of the partnership is to make accident-free mobility a reality, as well as to improve convenience and efficiency.
“With our vision of highly automated driving, we are already developing the technologies and methodologies for a range of cutting-edge driver assistance systems, said Dr. Christoph Grote, Head of BMW Group Research and Technology, in a statement. The future of personal mobility is highly automated driving, according to both companies.
The joint research is scheduled to start in early 2013 and end in late 2014. Prototypes of highly automated operations on motorways will be developed and produced and will be handed over to trained testers to pilot-test the functions. These tests will be conducted on German and European motorways, taking into consideration intersections, toll stations, roadwork, traffic, and national borders.
BMW developed the principal technologies required for automated driving. With a blend of digital maps, GPS, sensors, and video data, the BMW TrackTrainer, developed over the last ten years, can maneuver through vehicles on racing circuits completely autonomously. In October 2009 and again in May 2011, this system guided a vehicle around the German Nurburgring Nordschleife (North Loop) and showed that automated vehicles deliver impressive performance.
In the event of an emergency, part of the suite called BMW Emergency Stop Assistant has the ability to change to a highly automated mode to bring the vehicle to a stop on the side of the road, while activating the hazard lights. An emergency call is then sent out using the BMW eCall for medical assistance and to notify the authorities.
Other automakers, like Lexus and Audi, are experimenting with autonomous vehicle technology, readying it for sale sometime around when BMW plans to release its system in 2020. Will these systems completely take over for drivers? Probably not. But they’ll definitely help make the roads safer with a car that’s always aware of its surroundings even when the person behind the wheel isn’t.