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December 19, 2023
BMW has been granted approval to test its “hands-off, eyes off” driving technology in China.
The German automaker will now be able to assess its highly automated Level 3 tech on high-speed routes and urban roads in the city of Shanghai.
Level 3 is classed by the Society of Automotive Engineers as when a car is in control of the driving in certain, specific circumstances.
The award of the permit will allow BMW to test its automated cars more thoroughly and in more scenarios, having previously been awarded a more limited testing license in the city.
However, the new permit does not yet allow the company to offer Level 3 cars for sale in China. The company has made clear it intends to do so when the regulatory framework allows.
The announcement follows confirmation in November that BMW will make its Level 3 Personal Pilot tech available in 2024.
The first customers to benefit will be in BMW’s home market of Germany, where it will be offered on certain editions of the luxurious 7 Series sedan.
Personal Pilot L3 is enabled by an array of tech, including Live HD mapping combined with GPS location finding, plus ultrasonic, radar and lidar sensors, to ensure exact positioning and monitoring of the area around the vehicle. This is underpinned by a software stack, a powerful computing platform and a 5G link-up to the BMW Cloud.
In Germany, Personal Pilot L3 will work at speeds of up to 37 mph on highways with structurally separated highways, and is also claimed to be the first system of its type to be capable of operating in the dark.
BMW is one of the leaders in the race to develop commercially available Level 3 tech, although out in front at the moment is Mercedes, whose Drive Pilot feature has been offered to German customers on select models since 2022 and won approval for use in Nevada and California earlier this year.
BMW has made no secret of the fact it also wants to offer Level 3-equipped cars in the U.S., although has not yet provided a provisional timeline to do so.
The award of the Shanghai permit will move the company a step closer to commercial sales in China – particularly in light of the fact the country is taking a very proactive approach to the increase of automated transport, having recently published national guidelines for the use of AVs in public transport.
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