BMW has developed the world’s first self-driving car which can execute perfect power slides.

While other manufacturers are working on autonomous driving technology to take the stress and monotomy out of long journeys or to improve safety, BMW has not forgotten that driving – even when done by the car – should be enjoyable.  

“We are BMW – we need to have a bit of fun,” said Werner Huber, project manager for driver assistance and environmental perception within the company’s research and development division.

There is, however, also a serious side to the car, which outwardly looks like any other M235i. BMW wanted to prove that self-driving cars are safer than the average driver – not only in everyday driving but also at or beyond comfortable handling limits.

The car, which was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, has also piloted itself through slaloms, executed sudden lane change manoeuvres and completed complex switches between highways.

To make it work, BMW has developed new integrated lateral and longitudinal control systems linked to the car’s ESP system and the programmable electronic steering. There are also a number of sensors to keep the car on course and at a safe distance from other road users.

BMW wants to have the technology for self-driving cars production-ready by 2020 at the latest, even though it will require a change in the law almost everywhere in the world before they can be used on public roads.

 “We want to build an autonomous vehicle and we know it will come across critical situations where we can not expect the driver to take control suddenly,” said Huber.

“Imagine that something falls of a lorry in front or there is suddenly ice. The car has to act autonomously in seconds, decide what to do and translate that into driving dynamics. That’s why we set up this car.”

The next stage will be to develop test vehicles close to production standard by the end of this year, and then to begin tests in Germany and central Europe in 2015.