Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Will The BMW i3 Be The First Car To Drive Itself?


Ever since the i3 was first announced BMW has been promising the car will be a 'revolutionary' type of automobile. From the new Life Drive architecture to being the first series production car to employ such extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics, plus the fact that it will be the first battery electric vehicle BMW sells, it's been obvious the goal has been for the i3 to break new ground.


However little has been said about what might be one of the most unique features the car will have; it may very well be the first car ever sold that actually drives itself! The i3 is rumored to have the following:

Adaptive cruise control with stop and go: The car will maintain a consistent distance from the car in front of it, slowing up and accelerating as it does. It will even come to a stop and accelerate once again as the lead car does.

Passive Front Protection: The i3 will detect a possible collision whether it be another vehicle, object or pedestrian and alert the driver. If the driver doesn't react to avoid the collision the car can apply the brakes itself and stop to avoid the accident.

Traffic Jam Assistant: While driving 27 mph and slower, the i3 will basically drive itself by combining the adoptive cruise control and the ability to stay centered within the markings of the lane you are in. The driver will need to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel as a safety feature.

 Parking Assistant: The i3 will parallel park itself. This isn't as groundbreaking as Traffic Jam Assistant because it is offered by other automakers, but it's good to see it there also.

Whether or not the Traffic Jam Assistant makes it to the production i3 remains to be seen. I'm sure NHTSA is going to want to really take a look at this and BMW's lawyers may even have some kind of disclaimer for the customer to sign before the system is activated. I assume some people wouldn't want to use this out of fear of it malfunctioning. Personally I'd love to have it in my i3. I can see myself using it in stop and go traffic, and even on my trips into New York City. I'd like to think it will relieve some of the stress of city driving with congested streets and frequent slowing down and then speeding up. I'd like to hear what you think so please leave a comment. Are you ready for a self driving electric vehicle yet?

11 comments:

  1. I hope it does. It's about time we get this kind of mobility assistance

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  2. Sure I'd try it out. I really wonder how it could change lanes, our why it would want to. Is is following a navigation route? Would it make turns also? That would be really cool if you could just program a destination and it takes you there.

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    1. Peter5 (Switzerland, regular reader)May 23, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      I read that "it steers you between the road markings". Don't really think that lane changing is possible or desirable.

      But this "keep this lane" feature is really really great in my opinion!

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    2. Hi Peter, I think you may be right about that. I just did some research and found this on one of the BMW i sites:
      "The Traffic Jam Assistant – "Go with the flow"
      Traffic jams are a part of everyday driving especially in megacities. The Traffic Jam Assistant makes driving less stressful under monotonous road conditions. By letting the vehicle "go with the flow", it allows the driver to get to his destination in a more relaxed state of mind. The Traffic Jam Assistant maintains a specified following distance from the vehicle in front and in particularly heavy traffic can autonomously control the speed of the vehicle right down to a standstill while providing active steering input. This enables the vehicle to help the driver stay on course right up to a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) – provided he keeps at least one hand on the steering wheel."
      I'm going to correct it in my post. - thanks!

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  3. I sure hope you're wrong about all of this, Tom. Sounds like something for Cadillacs and Mercedes. BMWs are supposed to make drivers' cars. I suppose you could turn it all off, but it would still add a lot of cost (some people won't care about that, but I have to). There's already something out there for people who would rather not bother with the driving -- it's called a taxi.

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    1. Chris, I'm pretty sure these features will be available if not standard on the i3. I think it would be nice to have them offered in a special electronics package to keep the cost down also. In fact, I'd love to see a base model that's really stripped down -no power windows, cloth seats(not power), etc and make it as affordable as possible.
      The MINI-E was such a pleasure to drive and it wasn't loaded with options. Let the customer decide what they want and don't want to pay for.

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    2. Yes! I'd really like to see a stripped, lighter, "sports" model (and I much prefer high-quality cloth seats vs. leather or faux-leather). BMW already offers themed variants on some of their other cars (sport, modern, and luxury lines).

      I also like your idea for an optional special electronics package to include the driver assistance features for people who sometimes engage in extra-curricular activities while "driving." Many years ago I had a boss who read the newspaper while commuting into Washington--he once ran into the car in front of him when traffic slowed (no surprise there). A few years ago a woman rear-ended me while I was sitting at a red light; she was adjusting her stereo. Now there's texting, talking on the telephone, and surfing the internet in today's "connected" vehicles. So I guess I'm all for these people getting some help with their driving duties; I won't hold out hope they will actually start to pay attention to traffic.

      As you have noted, the i3 should provide as stress-free an environment as possible--quiet, smooth, with single-pedal control. Beyond that, it's all mental adjustment.

      On another subject, have you heard if BMW will incorporate an advanced automotive heat-pump similar to this one?: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/04/hpac-20120427.html This Delphi unit is under development for MY2015.

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  4. These features sound interesting, though obviously a bit frightening. I suppose we'll get used to things like this as we get more comfortable with the idea of leaving our safety in the hands of a computer sensor+algorithm. I would imagine all of these self-driving features could be turned off if you don't want them, but it's feasible that things like the Passive Front Protection are not able to be disabled.
    Speaking of configuring... Tesla announced that regen will be user configurable on their S. What a great (and in retrospect, obvious) idea! Since the hard regen of the Mini-E and Active-E has been so polarizing, that seems like a awesome suggestion. Tesla is also making the steering configurable - I doubt BMW will do something like that since they are very proud of the "Ultimate" tuning they do to their vehicles.

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    1. I has some conversations with a few BMW people about adjustable regen - I even suggested a switch to turn it off on long highway driving trips. It doesn't appear that is going to happen. BMW has had many surveys of the MINI-E participants and they overwhelmingly(over 90%) offered that they want the regen to be as strong as possible so they are going in that direction. the only people that really siad is was too strong was the peropl that just test drove a MINI-E, not the people that leased them. If you get in it once and drive it does feel very unusual, but as you know, you quickly get accustomed to it and then you don't want to drive without it!

      I'd vote for adjustable regen myself, but short of that I want it as strong as possible and activated by the A pedal (accelerator) as it is on the ActiveE.

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  5. As long as it can be turned off. Also, I like your suggestion of having it optional and the no-frills i3 is also good idea. Thank you for the information is very helpful and entertaining.

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  6. I believe the i3 does not have power steering. That would make it unlikely that self parking and Traffic Jam Assistant could be implemented.

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