Seventh-Generation BMW 5-Series To Debut At Detroit Auto Show: Closer To Autonomy – Forbes

Posted: Sunday, January 01, 2017

BMW Group is committed to the future of autonomous mobility, a world of robotic transportation. The new seventh-generation 5-Series, which traces its heritage to the BMW New Six and Bavaria four-door sedans of the 1960s and ‘70s that helped define the modern sports sedan, is chock full of technologies that move us ever closer to autonomy. Thankfully for folks like me, a BMW is still a BMW, and the powertrain, suspension, and overall package are what we expect from the Bavarians, with an emphasis on driving pleasure, a connection between driver and machine. Because Klaus Fröhlich, BMW’s board member in charge of engineering and product, is committed to BMW as the ultimate driving machine, I look forward to driving a 5-Series on a long trip.

But more than anything I want to present this car to my lovely attorney and many of her friends and colleagues, who are intrigued with autonomous driving as it relates to their daily slogs to office towers in coastal California. So, before we mention horsepower, handling and the thrills to be had in an ultimate driving machine, here are the technologies of an impending era of autonomous driving.

Two systems that have been with us awhile and are of immediate use to anyone commuting in heavy traffic are Active Lane Keeping Assistant and Traffic Jam Assistant, both offering semi-automated driving capability. When both are engaged, these systems operate between 0–130 mph, using softly buffered steering interventions to keep the vehicle in-lane. The system’s hands-on-wheel detection is claimed to be very sensitive, and can identify hand contact even when only a few fingers are touching the wheel, which brings fresh meaning to the old term “gently caress the wheel.” The latest generation of the system features improved image recognition and software algorithms to keep the vehicle reliably on course. In certain situations, particularly in stop-start traffic, the system also uses the vehicle in front as an additional reference point. Since I first demonstrated a vehicle with such a system to my lovely attorney, who commutes most weekdays to downtown Los Angeles on the jam-packed 110 freeway, she has wanted a vehicle with this technology. These technologies are currently and will in the future dramatically improve quality of “windshield time” when we all want to place calls that help clear the desk. I can muster no argument against this stage of semi-autonomous driving. I’m all for it.

Straight from the Pierce Brosnan period of James Bond movies, we have Remote Control Parking, which lets drivers  park in tight spaces without the hassle of getting in or out when the doors cannot be fully opened. With the car positioned in front of the desired parking space and the driver using only the Display Key, the 5 Series can be easily maneuvered into the parking spot. The driver can start/stop the engine and oversee the parking operation from outside the vehicle. Yes, it’s a big remote-control toy car, and yes you can park so tightly that the doors won’t open much at all, a big advantage to anyone who lives in a Southern California beach community from Santa Monica and Marina del Rey to Belmont Shore, Naples, Balboa and Laguna. All acceleration and braking actions are monitored and controlled by the Park Distance Control (PDC), the Parking Assistant and the Surround View sensors, while the engine can be started and switched off with the Display Key. I cannot wait to demonstrate this for my lovely attorney and her friends, who often must park in tight quarters downtown for social and charity events. One assumes valets will want access so they can pack more cars into each row, and we shall see how BMW has accommodated that need.


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