BMW shows hands-free driving on Autobahn (w/ video)

Jan 24, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Move over, Google, or better still, stay off the Autobahn, best not to interfere with the main show, which now stars BMW and its technology feats with self-driving cars. BMW has been drawing press interest in its recent show of what will be possible in self-driving cars 10 to 15 years from now. BMW had announced in August its “ConnectedDrive Connect (CDC) system. This week, a video was released showing a BMW on CDC realtime. BMW put it on the Autobahn, along with a human driver who nonetheless kept hands off the wheel of the car, a BMW 5 series model.

The video message was that the car was capable of on its own in certain circumstances but the driver is the one responsible, and the driver must be able to take over the driving task at all times.

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“The car adheres to all traffic laws,” assured the moderator. With the CDC system, the car can brake, accelerate and pass other vehicles while analyzing the traffic conditions. This BMW system uses radar, cameras, laser scanners, and ultrasound distance sensors to get the information it needs.

According to BMW the system can also steer the car to pass a slower vehicle. If the car senses there’s a slow mover in front of it, it will search for an open lane where it can safely merge, pass the slow car, and return to the original lane.

“Our main challenge was to develop algorithms that can handle entirely new situations. In principle, the system works on all freeways that we have mapped out beforehand with [a] centimeter accuracy,” said Nico Kaempchen, project manager of Highly Automated Driving. at BMW Group Research and Technology.

This is no out of the box prototype destined for car showrooms in 2013, however. The video, with its cautious comments about driverless driving and a needed driver, is nowhere near showoff mode as to how the driver can just leave the driving to the vehicle tomorrow. The Autobahn feat was to show a system that might be available ten to 15 years from now, or, as the BMW put it, a “technology study” for use in advancing existing technologies.

Overall, the European vendor approach in self-driving cars is not an aggressive play for headlines but rather a promotion of “driver-assistance” technologies that will incrementally lead to more and more driving automation.

Driverless technology, say industry observers, will first show its face as a luxury option for high end cars before settling into the mainstream marketplace.

Auto makers are selling cars with adaptive cruise control which applies the brakes during highway driving if traffic slows. , according to Technology Review, will work on that kind of capability in its upcoming i3 series of electric cars.

The company will offer a “traffic-jam feature” that allows the to speed up, slow down, and steer on its own at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, as long as the driver leaves a hand on the wheel.

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User comments : 16

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antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2012
Impressive. Getting this to work on the autobahn in dense traffic is no mean feat.
Especially for older people this will extend mobility indefinitely.
KillerKopy
1 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2012
The driver is the one responsible for the computer if it makes a mistake. I can't wait to see how the courts handle that. Plus if the driver is responsible for everything, then I should try to make a self driving car and try it out on everyone. Buckle up!!
CreepyD
5 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2012
If your car is driving itself totally, and you going to be watching the road the whole time? On a 3 hour journey just sitting there watching the road with no control? Really?
Either the car drives itself or we drive it, I don't think it will work if is a grey area of who is in control.
Bob_Kob
1 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2012
Well hopefully if there is a situation where driver control is needed, the car will alert the driver to this - not a situation where the car or driver is both unaware.
HydraulicsNath
4 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2012
If your car is driving itself totally, and you going to be watching the road the whole time? On a 3 hour journey just sitting there watching the road with no control? Really?
Either the car drives itself or we drive it, I don't think it will work if is a grey area of who is in control.


Hence why it is a developing study which means that its only a progressive point from which they can improve from.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2012
I can't wait to see how the courts handle that.

Just like with pilots who use an autopilot.

On a 3 hour journey just sitting there watching the road with no control? Really?

What do you think front seat passengers do now?
wealthychef
1 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2012

On a 3 hour journey just sitting there watching the road with no control? Really?

What do you think front seat passengers do now?

They have the option to distract themselves any way they please -- put their feet up on the dash, read a book, look out the window, go to sleep. A driver that is responsible at all times would have to watch the road at all times, which if he is not interacting would become dangerously dull.
jwilcos
5 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2012
Nice, but seems like the Google car is way ahead of this. They drove on regular streets (not just highways), in full traffic, including tasks such as taking an exit.

Either way this is great because by the time I retire in 20 years, these systems will be good enough so old people don't need to drive.
MrVibrating
1 / 5 (4) Jan 24, 2012
Nothing short of a fully sentient - and then massively redundant - intelligence should be allowed anywhere near a public road imho.

The current biggest challenges to driverless vehicles have nothing whatsoever to do with the robotic aspects of driving...
jimbo92107
1 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2012
Highly competent engineering, with a conservative approach to bragging. Das ist gut.
bredmond
not rated yet Jan 24, 2012
They should add a breathalyser to cars also. That way drunks wont be able to get into cars and drive, but they can get back to their homes and be sick there and off the streets.
plasticpower
not rated yet Jan 24, 2012
The day cars fully drive themselves is the day alcohol consumption is going to skyrocket! I'm sorry, liver, but your end is coming...
dan42day
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2012
Nothing short of a fully sentient - and then massively redundant - intelligence should be allowed anywhere near a public road imho.


That disqualifies at least half of the human drivers I see every day.

I agree with Chef's comment about driving becoming dangerously dull. Airline pilots have already shown the potential dangers of falling asleep on autopilot.

I don't want to be woken up by my BMW tersly yelling "ACHTUNG!" and find my car sailing off a cliff. My current one already annoys me by flashing "TAIL LIGHT FAILURE" in bright red letters every couple weeks. The tail lights seem to be working just fine...
chthonic
not rated yet Jan 25, 2012
The guy sitting behind the wheel looks like he's praying ^_^
Veneficus
1 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2012
"In principle, the system works on all freeways that we have mapped out beforehand with [a] centimeter accuracy."

I'm sorry, but that makes the whole thing a lot less impressive. This means you know beforehand where the exits are and where complicated traffic is to be expected. Come back when you can do it on totally unknown (and multi-directional traffic) environment.
Google is still way ahead of you...
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
I'm sorry, but that makes the whole thing a lot less impressive. This means you know beforehand where the exits are and where complicated traffic is to be expected.

So? Roads don't change over night. The effotr to map a road system to this accuracy is negligible. How do you think navigation systems work?

There is no such thing as a 'totally unknown traffic environment'.

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