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BMW to introduce a self-driving 7 Series in 2024: Here’s what you need to know

By Ted Welford | November 20, 2023


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BMW’s new generation of 7 Series features an autonomous-driving feature, ‘BMW Personal Pilot 3’, but what is the system and when will it be available? Here we have the answers

When you think of self-driving cars, it will likely be Tesla’s Autopilot that comes to mind first. The American electric car giant has been at the forefront of this, though even its systems are currently not autonomous. 

Tesla isn’t the only firm working on it, though, with many manufacturers currently developing similar features. This includes BMW’s new generation of 7 Series, which from next year will be available with a feature called ‘BMW Personal Pilot 3’ – a Level 3 autonomous driving feature that will allow the driver to divert their attention away from the road in some situations. 

But what is the system and when will it be available? Here we have the answers

What are the different levels of autonomous driving?

Before we get into explaining BMW’s self-driving features, it’s worth exploring the different levels of self-driving cars on offer. 

Autonomous cars are split into different grades, ranging from Level 1 to Level 5. These are defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Level 1 is the most basic and is where one element of a driving process is taken over in isolation, but the driver is still very much in control. It includes features like the most basic adaptive cruise control and lane assist.

Level 2 autonomy is where we are today, and allows for further assistants to take the stress of driving away, including features such as lane change assist, self-parking and advanced adaptive cruise control, but the driver must still be ‘hands-on’. 

Level 3 is the next step, and is referred to as ‘conditional automation’, and is where in select circumstances, the driver can be ‘hands-off’ but still needs to be on standby. Following this is Level 4, which is genuine hands-off driving but only in geofenced areas and cities, where no ‘driver’ is needed. After this is Level 5, which is full autonomy, whatever the conditions.

What is BMW’s ‘self-driving feature able to do?

BMW’s ‘Personal Pilot L3’ will offer this Level 3 functionality. Available to order from December, and be fitted to vehicles from March 2024, the German firm says that the technology ‘allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and temporarily divert their attention away from the road’.

Available on the latest generation of 7 Series, but not electric i7 models, it is said to work at speeds of up to 60km/h (37mph) on motorways with a permanent central reservation between them. It’s also said to be the first system of its kind that can work in the dark. 

BMW says that when conditions allow, symbols appear on the instrument display to show the feature can be activated, which is done with a press of a button on the steering wheel. This then allows customers the ‘option of concentrating on secondary in-vehicle activities’. The German gives examples of sending emails and ‘engage more deeply in phone calls’. 

The Level 3 ‘hands-off’ driving only lasts for so long, however, and when road conditions change the driver needs to take control again, BMW says that ‘visual and acoustic signals let the driver know they have to take over control once more’. If a driver does not respond to the prompts, the vehicle is said to come to a ‘controlled standstill’. 

Will the UK get this level of self-driving ability?

Many countries have different rules currently on self-driving cars and though the Automated Vehicles Bill was recently announced in the King’s Speech to Parliament, these autonomous cars are currently not permitted on UK roads. 

So at launch, this self-driving feature is available exclusively in Germany as a €6,000 (£5,250) option. We asked BMW if and when the feature would be available in the UK, with a spokesperson saying there is “currently no timeline for the introduction of the Level 3 functionality for markets outside of Germany, including the UK”.

The firm did, however, point out that it introduced a feature described as ‘Level 2+’ on its new generation of 5 Series, which allows for a small degree of hands-off driving. This is currently available in Germany, the US and Canada with BMW saying it is ‘working to launch it in the UK as soon as possible’.

What do I need to know about the new BMW 7 Series?

The 7 Series has been BMW’s halo model for years and continues to serve as its range-topping product. A new seventh-generation model arrived on sale in 2023, gathering attention for its divisive design and sublime technology – customers can even choose a rear cinema screen that comes out of the headlining. 

While petrol and diesel 7 Series models remain on sale in other markets, in the UK, it can only be ordered as the electric i7 or plug-in hybrid 750e as the firm seeks to drive up electrified car sales. 

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