BMW unveils driverless car plans

HANDS OFF: BMW has revealed that it will soon include driver assistance technology.
HANDS OFF: BMW has revealed that it will soon include driver assistance technology.

BMW has unveiled plans for a self-driving car capable of negotiating highways, intersections, toll stations and roadworks autonomously.

The German manufacturer has signed a partnership agreement with supplier Continental to jointly develop an ''electronic co-pilot system''.

The new technology is a radical extension of BMW's basic driver assist programs such as Traffic Jam Assistant, an auto steering and braking system that is due to be implemented in its new cars shortly. Such technology is already being used in Mercedes Benz's upcoming E-Class series, but neither manufacturer currently offers a fully autonomous driving experience.

BMW says the overarching vision for the new technology is making accident-free mobility a reality.

''With our vision of highly automated driving, we are already developing the technologies and methodologies for a range of cutting-edge driver assistance systems,'' said BMW Group Research and Technology boss, Dr Christoph Grote.

''Partially automated driving functions of the near future, like the Traffic Jam Assistant, will mark an important step on the road to highly automated driving.”

The new agreement with Continental could see self-driving technology implemented in new BMWs before 2020.

The two parties have already begun a two-year pilot scheduled to run until the end of next year. BMW says that, during the trial, a number of prototypes will be built and then tested along different European motorways.

The prototypes will be guided by 360-degree sensor technologies, including all-round lidar, radar, utltrasound and camera scanning.

The announcement marks yet another step forward in BMW's driver assist programs.

In 2011, the German car maker underwent a public road test between Munich and Nuremberg without driver intervention; braking, accelerating and overtaking vehicles entirely autonomously.

-Fairfax News Australia