In a bid to commercialize hands-free cars, BMW AG and supplier Continental AG are preparing a large-scale road test involving dozens of vehicles.
The goal is a production vehicle that can change lanes without the driver’s intervention. Such vehicles are likely to enter dealer showrooms in three to five years.
The test, which will be conducted early next year, will occur over a 500-kilometer (311-mile) route from Germany over the Alps to Italy, says Werner Huber, BMW’s project manager of driver, assistance and environmental perception.
“We will build a prototype car which can be cloned into 10, 20, 50, maybe 100 cars,” Huber said. “That is what we are working on.”
BMW’s plan for a fleet test signals a new step forward in development of hands-free vehicles. And if past trends hold true, lane-changing technology will trickle down from luxury cars to the mass market.
BMW’s test fleet of cars will accelerate, brake and change lanes without the driver’s help for lengthy stretches at speeds ranging up to 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph).
Production vehicles would employ this technology at lower speeds, such as in stop-and-start highway traffic. Most likely, BMW would offer this technology as an improved version of its existing driver assistance package.
Luxury brands typically offer a “driver assistance” option that includes intelligent cruise control with automatic braking, lane-keeping and 360-degree road surveillance.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi offer driver assistance options ranging from $1,900 to $3,200.