Hands off: BMW 7 Series to gain Level 3 autonomous driving

Next level of autonomous driving will allow 7 Series drivers to edit emails and stream videos

BMW has announced ‘Level 3’ autonomous driving technology will be added to the new 7 Series from March 2024, allowing drivers to take their hands off the wheel to engage with other tasks. 

So far, we’ve seen autonomous technology reach ‘Level 2 Plus’ in the form of Ford’s Blue Cruise system which still requires users to maintain attention on the road. Although BMW’s set-up only works at speeds up to 37mph on motorways, it will control the car’s speed, distance to the vehicle in front and lane positioning, both in daylight and nighttime. The system will only be available for 7 Series models in Germany and not for the all-electric i7. 

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The technology uses BMW’s “Personal Pilot” programme and costs €6,000 in Germany (roughly £5,244). The firm says “customers will be able to edit emails, engage more deeply in telephone calls and stream videos from various providers on the central display during a journey.” 

The main difference between Level 2 and Level 3 is that the driver holds responsibility for the vehicle at all times, but with their hands off the wheel in Level 3, that is no longer the case. Still, BMW maintains that the driver must be ready to “reassume the task of driving at any time”. A symbol on the driver’s screen signifies when Level 3 autonomy is available. 

In September 2023, the government cast doubt on suitability of driverless cars to British roads, with the Transport Select Committee stating “over the last decade, progress in this technology has failed to meet many of its promoters’ predictions, and this has bred understandable cynicism”.

Now read our in-depth review of the BMW 7 Series…

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