How Close Is BMW to Creating Autonomous Vehicles?

There’s been a ton of buzz surrounding self-driving cars recently, both about BMW and the broader auto industry. It seems like we’re perpetually on the cusp of a world in which no one has to physically drive their own cars anymore. When will autonomous vehicles — and, more specifically, self-driving BMWs — really be ready?

The Five Levels of Autonomous Driving

Experts define five levels of autonomous driving, with each one being more advanced than the one before it. Level one includes driver assist technologies that help the driver but don’t take control over the car. In level five, the vehicle operates itself completely, and the people in the car are merely passengers.

Level one technologies are commonplace in today’s world, and all new BMW models have them. BMW Personal CoPilot driver assistance systems are examples of level one tech. These systems include Active Cruise Control with the Stop&Go function, which adjusts your distance to the car in front of you. The Collision and Pedestrian Warning system with City Brake Activation uses automatic braking to prevent collisions.

Some Beamers also have level two technologies. In this level, the car can take control, but the driver is still responsible for vehicle operation. These systems include BMW’s Steering and Lane Control Assistant, which includes Traffic Jam Assistant. Designed to make everyday driving easier, these systems can take over steering, in addition to automatically braking and accelerating. Another example is the remote-controlled parking function.

In keeping with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s autonomous vehicle testing guidelines, BMW is currently testing cars with level three and level four autonomy. It aims to introduce level three cars to the consumer marker by 2021. These vehicles would be able to drive autonomously for longer periods, but drivers would still need to be ready to take control quickly and would have to drive under some conditions.

BMW is also testing level four cars and has a fleet of around 40 of them in Munich and California. In level four, the vehicle drives autonomously the majority of the time, although the driver must still be able to take over.

BMW’s Current Efforts

With a research and development team of about 1,000 people, BMW is working continuously on its autonomous vehicle technologies. The company does much of its research and development work out of its Silicon Valley technology office. The company is also testing the vehicles in California and Munich.

The test vehicles are loaded with cameras, lidar systems and other sensors that allow them to capture data about their environment. This includes information about the motion of other vehicles, the presence of pedestrians and other hazards. Hardware located in the trunk of the cars process all this information and puts it into action.

BMW is working with several partners on its autonomous vehicle tech, including Intel Corp., which owns sensor maker Mobileye. BMW also works with German automotive parts maker Continental AG and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. BMW has said it’s open to working with other collaborators and is pursuing a nonexclusive platform for the development of self-driving technology.

The iNext Concept

The Vision iNext concept provides a glimpse into what the future of BMW vehicles may look like. The idea behind the iNext concept is to turn the vehicle into a “living space on wheels.” It’s designed to be a place where you can relax as if you were at home, while still having the option of the driving experience BMW is known for.

The driver has two options for what experience they want to have in this iNext concept vehicle. In Boost mode, the driver is in full control, and the steering wheel is easily accessible. In Ease mode, the car operates autonomously. The steering wheel retracts slightly, freeing up some space. The vehicle includes two interactive digital screens that display information, such as your speed and your proximity to other cars.

The company premiered the concept at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It plans to have a production version in its showrooms by 2021 in the form of a level-three, all-electric SUV from its “i” brand.

Today’s new BMWs already have some autonomous functionalities, but we’re still a relatively long way off from fully autonomous, level five vehicles. We need more technological advancements as well as substantial safety testing, and federal rules will need to evolve further before we can fully adopt self-driving vehicles. BMW, however, expects Beamers with level-three capabilities to hit showrooms by 2021.

BMW, along with the rest of the auto industry, is moving steadily toward an autonomous future.

Make 2019 the Year You Work on Your BMW Yourself

Did you make a new year’s resolution for 2019 yet? If not, here’s one for you — make this the year you start doing repairs and maintenance on your BMW yourself.

Why Work on Your BMW Yourself?

So, why should you start doing your own repairs and maintenance? If you have a BMW, you probably love it — there’s a reason bimmers have attracted so many loyal fans around the world. Working on your own BMW, even if it’s just basic maintenance, will help you:

  • Appreciate Your Vehicle: You’ll learn more about how it works and get to see some of its inner workings firsthand.
  • Relax With Friends: Working on a car is also a great way to relax and spend time with family and friends. If you’re new to DIY car repairs, you may be able to get a more experienced friend to help you. If you’ve already spent some time working on cars, you can probably find another BMW fan to work with or enlist an enthusiastic newbie who wants to learn more about them.
  • Save Money: Another major draw of DIY BMW maintenance is the potential cost savings. Your Mechanic, Inc. ranked BMW as the most expensive car make to maintain and estimated a cost of $17,800 over 10 years. This is mainly because BMWs are more expensive, higher-quality cars to begin with and, therefore, the parts are more expensive too. The labor can also be more expensive, especially if you a more advanced model such as one in the M series. Doing this labor yourself, however, can result in significant savings since labor costs account for a substantial portion of the price of a visit to the mechanic.

Tips for BMW Maintenance, Repairs and Modifications

Say you’ve decided to start working on your car yourself this year. How should you approach this new task? Here are three tips to help you get started.

1. Start Simple

If you’re not experienced in working with cars, start with some of the simpler maintenance tasks. Some great tasks for beginners include:

  • Changing your oil and oil filter
  • Changing your windshield wipers
  • Changing your air filter
  • Replacing spark plugs
  • Replacing your drive belts

As you get more comfortable with your car, you can move into more involved jobs include a range of maintenance and repair tasks and even some custom mods. That being said, you should probably leave the most advanced jobs, such as transmission repairs, windshield replacement and bodywork, to the professionals.

2. Make Safety Your Top Priority

Safety should always be your top priority when working on your car. Before you get started, make sure you’re in a safe environment. Clear the area of any potential hazards, and if you’re working in a garage, ensure the garage door is working correctly and won’t come down on your workspace. If you’re running your car, leave your garage door open and face the tailpipes toward the outside to prevent hazardous fumes from building up.

While working on your car, wear safety goggles, avoid loose clothing and tie up long hair. If you’re working on the underside of your vehicle, make sure you use high-quality floor jacks that can support your car’s weight and blocks for the wheels. Ensure that you’re working on a level surface and never use makeshift materials as car jacks. You should also have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit nearby and easily accessible.

Also, make sure that all children and pets stay clear of the area unless they’re under direct supervision. If you’re letting your kids help or watch as you work on your car, give them a basic safety lesson first.

3. Invest in Quality Tools

In addition to your floor jacks, you’ll also need to invest in some other basic tools. Make sure they’re of decent quality — you don’t want your tools breaking mid-maintenance, as this would be quite inconvenient and could cause safety issues. Your BMW deserves high-quality tools. Many BMWs come with a small set of tools, so check what you have in that kit.

Some of the basic tools you’ll need include:

  • Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • An adjustable wrench
  • A torque wrench
  • A socket and ratchet set

If you’re a BMW owner, make 2019 the year you start working on your bimmer yourself. You’ll save money, learn more about your car and have a good time doing it.

Four Car Issues Every BMW Owner Should Know

BMWs might be known for being some of the most reliable luxury cars on the market, but like everything designed by human minds and built by human hands, problems can crop up. Some of these issues are minor, while others can leave you stranded on the side of the road if you don’t address them quickly.

Addressing these problems can help you optimize your Bimmer for the most ideal drive no matter where you take it. Let’s look at four of the most common BMW problems and how to prevent them — or repair them when they do occur.

1. Power Window Failure

One of the best parts of owning a modern car is the convenience of power windows — at least, until they fail and end up stuck open or closed. Any BMW equipped with the E46 window motor and regulator might experience problems.

The regulator clips can break, which means your windows will move slowly — or not at all. These problems are easy to fix, but they do require taking apart the entire affected door to access the window regulator.

2. Oil Leaks

Oil only works if it’s able to stay in the engine compartment. BMW’s have a habit of developing oil leaks once you pass the 55,000-mile mark. Some are easy to repair — the valve cover gasket and the oil filter housing gasket being two of the most accessible oil leak related repairs — while others, like the rear main seal, may require the assistance of a professional.

You can repair some small leaks without disassembling the engine by using products that act as stop-leaks. However, while being a temporary mechanic might be convenient, it won’t work for larger or more complicated leaks.

3. Cracked Rims

Many BMW models come equipped with 19-inch run-flat alloy rims. While these rims look amazing, they are prone to cracking — and a poorly placed crack can puncture your tire, leaving you stranded.

It is important to note that this is only a problem for Class Series vehicles sold between 2009 and 2012 — BMW settled a class action suit in 2015. Although there’s not much you can do to prevent this other than driving safely, it is something to be on the lookout for if you’ve got a Bimmer from those years with the original rims.

4. Coolant Leaks

This BMW problem is specific to the BMW 3 series, but that is a great variety of cars to choose from. Regardless of the year, coolant leaks always manage to crop up. These can have many different causes, from a cracked radiator cap to a blown head gasket to a hole in the radiator itself.

No matter what the reason is, it is something you need to repair quickly. A lack of coolant could cause the engine to overheat — plus, the coolant is toxic to animals and the environment.

BMWs are, by far, one of the most reliable brands on their market — but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their share of problems. Being aware of these four common problems can help keep your car running and prevent you from ending up stranded on the side of the road.

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