BMW showcases self-driving cars with smooth ‘drift’

14/01/2014

BMW has unveiled its version of self-driving cars that can "drift" around bends and slalom between cones.

The new ActiveAssist feature can bring a vehicle "back into line in demanding driving situations without any input from the driver", using 360-degree radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors.

The German manufacturer revealed a modified version of the M235i Coupe at the 2014 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. The car can brake, steer and accelerate without driver intervention.

Other self-driving vehicles on display included a 2-Series Coupe and 6-Series Grand Coupe.

The cars were tested on Germany's famous Nurburgring race track and on a 40 mile journey between Munich and Nuremberg.

Researchers have also trialled an "Emergency Stop Assistant" function which can steer the vehicle to the side of the road and automatically activate an emergency call if the driver is incapacitated, for example in a medical emergency.

The car company said: "The prototype illustrates the BMW Group’s aspiration to offer its customers a highly automated driving experience exuding emotional appeal – even at the car’s dynamic limit."

It is just one of several car manufacturers experimenting with the technology - Japan's Toyota has also been demonstrating its autonomous car at CES.

And Bosch, better known for its white goods and power tools, showed off its smartphone-controlled self-parking technology at the show.

One 2013 study by the Eno Center for Transportation suggested that if 10% of cars on US roads were autonomous this could reduce fatalities by about 1,000.

A number of driver assistance technologies are already being incorporated into the latest cars, from lane-drifting warnings to self-parking.

Currently California, Florida and Nevada have licensed autonomous vehicles to be tested on their public roads, and Google's fleet of 24 robot Lexus SUVs (sports utility vehicles) have clocked up about 500,000 miles of unassisted driving so far without any reported mishaps.

Autonomous vehicles are not yet allowed on European roads and we are still a long way from seeing driverless cars frequenting our streets and motorways.

But as the number of successful demonstrations grows, the cultural hurdles are probably greater than the technological ones.

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