A compact coupe with powerful turbocharged engine, a short wheelbase and rear wheel drive – one would probably consider the BMW M235i (the hot version of the new 2-Series) a driver’s car. But an M235i that doesn’t need a driver? That’s exactly what BMW showcased at CES this year – watch the video above.
This automated M235i demonstrates a new generation of control systems that it is calling BMW ActiveAssist, which is parked under the ConnectedDrive banner. It is a safety assistance system which brings the vehicle back into line in demanding driving situations without any input from the driver.
The prototype can pilot its way at high speeds with precision on a slalom run between cones, adheres to a marked out circular course regardless of the friction coefficient of the road surface, and executes an obstacle-evading lane change to perfection. Even when deliberately provoked into oversteer, the prototype follows its path safely and along almost identical lines time after time, as it can react to fluctuating grip levels which might happen in real life, such as aquaplaning.
The sensors delivering the necessary information are the same as those fitted as standard on today’s vehicles and also send data to the DSC system, for example. Understeer – where the car pushes over its front wheels – is dialled out by opening the steering. Oversteer is caught using a carefully gauged combination of countersteering and brake inputs.