BMW has an enhanced driver assistance package called Driving Assistant Professional—available across all newer BMW models, including the all-new 2022 iX and the X5. The latest technology is a Level 2 autonomous system bridging the gap between modest cruise control to self-driving in the purest sense of the word.
Some car manufacturers have been working towards automation technology for many years, and we are finally starting to see more advanced features on the commercial market. But when might we begin to see fully automated vehicles out on the road?
Tesla hardly needs any introductions as one of the greatest developers in the automated automotive industry, but other auto manufacturers and tech companies are moving right alongside them. One auto manufacturer, BMW, may even commercially pioneer Level 3 autonomous driving functions by 2025.
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Does BMW have a self-driving car?
BMW does not have a self-driving car yet—but it’s on the way.
While BMW has been working on autonomous driving for years, they are keeping safety and consumer value at the forefront of their commercial offerings. Currently, BMW offers a Driving Assitant Professional package across its entire lineup of vehicles—but the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) comes standard on the 5 Series, X5,
iX, and other newer models.
The latest BMW self-driving technology is Level 2 autonomous. A Level 2 autonomous vehicle has driver support features, but the driver must still supervise the vehicle and constantly monitor the driving environment. That said, semi-automation can help enhance driving performance by providing warnings and temporary assistance to the driver.
Any higher-end BMW with the already standard Active Driving Assistant can upgrade to the most advanced Driving Assistance Professional Package. Here are the core features of this tech:
Emergency brake assist, which warns the driver of an impending collision and can bring the vehicle to a complete stop if necessary.
Distance control, also referred to as adaptive cruise control, features automatic braking and acceleration on the highway.
Lane-centering and steering assistance—with a hands-free option available in certain conditions at speeds under 40 mph
Driver attentiveness detection using eye-tracking and driver posture
Excellent sensing capabilities and camera assistance, including rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, pedestrian detection, and side-collision avoidance.
Parking assistance with backup guidance for parking in tight and tricky spaces
Road sign scanning with automatic speed limit adjustments
Critics of the latest Driving Assitance Professional package argue that the car isn’t technically self-driving, which is an accurate assessment of Level 2 autonomous cars. For some, the extra cost doesn’t justify the small step up from standard safety features—especially since automated steering is only deployable if you’re driving under 40 mph.
Others who frequently find themselves in stop-and-go traffic, however, enjoy the stepped-up experience the added Extended Traffic Jam Assistant technology offers. At lower speeds, the car can steer hands-free without driver intervention—which makes the tech feel less like glorified cruise control and more akin to the features of high-level autonomous driving.
Key Takeaway Most high-end BMW vehicles are Level 2 autonomous, which means that the driver must continuously supervise the vehicle while it brakes, accelerates, and steers.
Technically, BMW’s 2022 iX contains a Level 2+ autonomous system, which is not an officially recognized level. With regulatory and legal concerns surrounding Level 3 systems, most companies find themselves trapped in a Level 2+ grey area when it comes to commercial and consumer safety—as is the case with Extended Traffic Jam Assistant technology.
Even so, BMW is partnering with Qualcomm and Arriver to develop this transitory stage into the next phase of autonomous driving: Level 3. By the second half of 2025, BMW plans to offer
Level 3 capabilities, allowing drivers to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road for longer periods under certain highway conditions.
How do self-driving cars work?
Cars that are currently marketed as “self-driving” don’t actually drive on their own. In truth, self-driving technology today requires a driver behind the wheel. Creating a 100% autonomous car is an incredibly complex objective that will take years to achieve.
Self-driving car technology combines cameras, sensors, GPS, and LiDar to help the vehicle track, identify, and build upon contextual data. Deep learning algorithms then use image recognition and processing abilities to make calculated predictions about the driving environment and perform tasks—such as braking or accelerating—accordingly.
Essentially, self-driving cars need an astounding amount of data to be able to accurately map, monitor, and appropriately respond to real-time situations without any driver intervention. There are six levels of autonomous vehicles as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE):
Level 0: No automation. The human driver is fully controlling the car and performing all driving tasks at all times.
Level 1: Driver assistance. The car has a single automated system it can handle at a time on its own, such as braking, acceleration, or steering, while the human controls the rest of the driving tasks.
Level 2: Partial automation. The car can perform combined automated functions, but the driver must continue to monitor the environment and tasks at all times. (BMW’s Driving Assistance Professional is Level 2).
Level 3: Conditional automation. The human must be ready to take full control but doesn’t have to fully monitor the environment—such as with traffic jam technology. (BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assist straddles this line).
Level 4: High automation. The car can perform all tasks without human intervention under specific circumstances.
Level 5: Full automation. The car can perform all tasks under all driving conditions and doesn’t need any intervention or attention from the human.
There is a long road ahead before cars reach Level 5 automation. As it stands,
self-driving legislation is highly variable and presents a major roadblock to expanding consumer autonomous driving options.
Without a doubt, self-driving car technology has come a long way—but until autonomous driving is deemed certifiably safe, organizations like the NHTSA will continue to monitor and ultimately mandate when we can expect to see fully self-driving vehicles on the road.
The 5 best BMWs with self-driving technology
BMW has worked on autonomous driving processes since 2004—they’ve also erected a research center dedicated entirely to self-driving and have closely collaborated and partnered with tech companies over the years. Needless to say, the company is a veteran of the industry and continues to excite with new self-driving technology features.
Here’s a rundown of the best BMW models and series with the best driver-assistance features, including semi-autonomous driving.
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Keep in mind that if you don’t want to upgrade to the Driving Assistance Pro with Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, you can stick to the standard Driving Assistance Package that’s available on all new Beemers. It still has some pretty great safety features, including:
Precrash protection with emergency braking and steering, for collisions that seem unavoidable
City collision warning and pedestrian detection
Blindspot detection with mirror light warning
Rear cross-traffic warning
Adaptive headlights and high-beam assistant
But if you want more self-driving features, or just can’t wait until BMW’s Driving Assistant Pro with Extended Traffic Jam Assistant becomes standard across the entire BMW line-up, then you can have it now at extra cost. This package includes all of the above, plus a few more features:
Steering and lane control assistant with side collision avoidance—at high speeds, the system will briefly steer and bring the car back into the lane
Emergency stop assistant to bring the vehicle to a stop in case of a health emergency
Automatic lane changing (by holding the turn indicator)
Evasion assistant and front cross-traffic warning—when people or obstacles suddenly appear close to the vehicle’s clearance, sensors will help the driver perform targeted steering
Steering and traffic jam assistant—in stop and go traffic under 40 mph, the system supports the driver with automatic steering and acceleration (like cruise control for city driving conditions)
Driver attentiveness tracking
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