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Level 3 highly automated driving, which allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and temporarily divert their attention away from the road, will soon be available in BMW’s technology flagship 7 Series.

‘BMW Personal Pilot L3’ takes over driving in certain situations and controls the car’s speed, distance to the vehicle ahead and lane positioning and the option can be ordered for some 7 Series models from December to be fitted in vehicles from next March.

The option will be offered exclusively in Germany for EUR6,000.

This technology allows drivers to redirect their focus to other in-vehicle activities when travelling at up to 60km/h (37 mph) on motorways with structurally separated carriageways. Thanks to its sophisticated sensors, this is the first system of its kind that can also be used in the dark.

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By GlobalData

BMW also offers Level 2 hands-free driving with its Highway Assistant in all new 5 Series models. The package also includes a unique feature in the form of the Active Lane Change Assistant with eye confirmation. This function is primarily designed for use over long-distance journeys, allowing the driver to adopt an extremely relaxed posture behind the steering wheel. When travelling at up to 130km/h (81 mph), this additional function of the Steering and Lane Control Assistant can take control over the car’s speed, the distance to the vehicle in front and the car’s steering.

The crucial difference between Level 2 and Level 3 is that with Level 2 (partially automated driving) responsibility continues to lie with the driver at all times. Whenever Level 2 is in use, drivers must watch what is happening on the road and be able to take over the task of driving again at all times. This is continuously monitored using an intelligent attentiveness camera.

Level 3 gives drivers the option of concentrating on other activities away from what is happening on the road. This makes L3 ideal solution for making good use of time spent in slow-moving traffic or tailbacks during daily motorway commutes.

Symbols appear on the display behind the steering wheel as appropriate to indicate if L3 is available. It is activated and deactivated by a button on the steering wheel. When the function is being used, the customer still has to be ready to reassume the task of driving at any time. Visual and acoustic signals let the driver know they have to take over control once more. If the driver does not respond as required, the vehicle is brought to a controlled standstill.

The live HD map with precise routes is permanently aligned with extremely accurate GPS location finding and works with 360° sensors to ensure exact positioning and monitoring of the area around the vehicle. The live HD map is always current due to regular updates.

The 7 Series has a new software stack, a powerful computing platform and a 5G link to the cloud. Besides the cameras, vehicles with L3 are also fitted with latest-generation ultrasonic sensors and radar sensors and a highly sensitive 3D lidar sensor for monitoring the area around the vehicle and the situation on the road.