CES 2014: New BMW system drives car in emergencies – USA TODAY

Posted: Tuesday, January 07, 2014

LAS VEGAS — BMW is throwing its hat into the autonomous car ring with a concept technology that can take the wheel when the going gets tough, and a promise that “highly automated driving” will be commonplace by the year 2020.

At this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show here, the automaker demonstrated a prototype of a new driver-assist technology that can control a vehicle under demanding conditions. Called ActiveAssist, it’s not just designed for around-town jaunts, but for precise control “up to the vehicle’s dynamic limit.”

According to BMW, prototypes equipped with ActiveAssist can travel “with exceptional precision” even at high speeds. During testing, engineers put it through a slalom run, forced the car to hydroplane on a wet track, and even made it change lanes to avoid an obstacle. BMW says the car performed flawlessly.

ActiveAssist is designed to regain control of the vehicle even after a driver deliberately causes it to lose control. By automatically braking, accelerating, and steering as needed, BMW says its prototype can get out of a spin the same way an expert driver would. In engineering tests, the car recovered from human error every single time.

And that’s just the technology that we’ll see in the near-term. Cars that can drive you to work while you read the newspaper might be years away, but BMWs that take control of the steering wheel and brakes when the car starts to skid could be just around the corner.

In fact, BMW says its vehicles all already feature the necessary components to implement many of the ActiveAssist features, including electronic power steering and the sensors used for stability control.

The automaker says that ActiveAssist will be put into real-world trials on European roadways by 2015. What BMW calls “highly autonomous” vehicles—those that can negotiate road construction on a highway with minimal driver input, for example—are expected by the year 2020.

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