All BMWs to Self Drive by 2021

BMW HoloTouch

BMW made sure to dazzle the media at CES this week with a host of tech-focused announcements and product demos available the day before the show officially opened. Interface design and autonomous driving were the focal points of the German brand’s future-oriented product push.

The biggest news? BMW’s claim that by 2021 its production cars will feature a self-driving mode, a move launched this year with a fleet of 40 self-driving BMW 7 Series sedans built in partnership with both Intel and Mobileye. The pair will provide the sensor technology and processing power required by BMW to test its initial autonomous foray.

The company’s description of its self-driving future was distinctly un-BMW in its focus on entertainment for riders, ‘Sound Curtain’ technology to insulate them from the activities of other passengers, and connectivity to various media and cloud services to occupy owners during their drives. BMW brought both an autonomous 5 Series sedan to the show in order to demonstrate the technology in action (presumably using tech that will also be found in the 7 Series test fleet), but it additionally included the ‘i Inside Future,’ a sculpted ‘riding environment that demonstrates each of these features in action.

Also on the table? The HoloActive Touch system, which augments existing gesture controls found in the 7 Series with a system of menus that project out past the LCD panels in which they are traditionally housed. In a sense, HoloActive Touch adopts the head-up display reflective tech for the vehicle’s cabin, and uses a system of cameras to track how the driver and passenger interact with the controls.

BMW’s transition from seeking to build the ‘ultimate driving machine’ to leveraging technological investment in order to differentiate itself from other automakers follows a trend that has taken deep root in the industry of late. For those who prefer driving to riding, however, there is a ray of hope: even in its upcoming autonomous offerings, BMW plans to offer a ‘Boost’ mode which will allow for the left-seater to take over operation of the vehicle.

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Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting is a freelance writer who enjoys keeping the shiny side up during track days. He is also an avid musician and a friend to vinyl.