November 14, 2023
BMW has confirmed that it will offer Level 3, hands-off, eyes-off highly automated driving in its 7 Series next year.
The German automaker has named the new feature Personal Pilot L3 and announced it will be offered starting in the spring on selected versions of its executive sedan in its home market.
Personal Pilot L3 will work at speeds of up to 37 mph on motorways with structurally separated carriageways. It is also claimed to be the first system of its kind that is capable of operating in the dark.
The functionality is enabled by an array of tech. Live HD mapping is combined with GPS location finding, plus the latest generation ultrasonic, radar and lidar sensors, to ensure exact positioning and monitoring of the area around the vehicle.
This is underpinned by a new software stack, a powerful computing platform and a 5G link-up to the BMW Cloud.
According to BMW, the system is designed to give drivers the opportunity to concentrate on other activities in slow-moving traffic or tailbacks. These could include sending emails, taking telephone calls or even streaming videos on the car’s central display.
Drivers are made aware when Personal Pilot L3 functionality is available via symbols that appear on the display behind the 7 Series’ steering wheel, and it is activated and deactivated by a button on the wheel.
However, as per the Society of Automotive Engineers’ designation of Level 3 tech, the human driver must be ready to assume control if prompted – when, for example, the stretch of road suitable for using the feature comes to an end.
Visual and acoustic signals let them know if this is the case, and if they do not respond as requested, the 7 Series is brought to a controlled standstill.
To date, the highest level of automation available in a production BMW is the advanced Level 2 Highway Assistant feature, which is offered in all new versions of the 5 Series. Among its stand-out features is Active Lane Change Assistant, which can control a car’s speed, the distance to the vehicle in front and the steering at speeds of up to 81 mph.
Crucially, though, this still requires drivers to remain ready to intervene at all times – the fundamental difference between Level 2 and Level 3 tech.
Personal Pilot L3 is being offered for $6,430 and is available exclusively in Germany initially. BMW has not yet indicated a timeline for its introduction in the United States.
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