Last May we went for a high-speed run around Laguna Seca in BMW's Track Trainer, a modified 3 Series that can click of two-minute laps without the driver touching the controls. Now, BMW has packed a 5 Series with the next iteration of the technology and taken it on to the open road.
This latest ConnectedDrive experiment uses much of the same tech, but beyond the radar and camera systems on the 3er, it includes new ultrasonic scanners and lasers to re-read the road surface, lines and surrounding vehicles. We say "re-read" because like the system we sampled at Laguna, this version needs to have the road data downloaded into the car before it can drive sans human intervention.
Still, out on the autobahn it appears to work well, slowing for traffic, accelerating up to speed and performing lane changes when necessary. It's still too early to tell if the system will ever gain widespread adoption – particularly given the need for advance road data – but the 2013 BMW i3 will be equipped with a new Traffic Jam Assistant system that will steer, accelerate and brake the city car up to 25 mph in congestion, so the functionality is on its way, just not at autobahn speeds. Check out the demo in the video below the fold.