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Next-Gen BMW 5 Series to Get Level 3 Autonomous Driving in Europe: Report

Level 3 autonomous driving is defined by the SAE as driving without input from a human driver—hands off, eyes off—in limited conditions.

The yet-to-arrive and newest generation of the BMW 5 Series (platform code G60/G61) hasn’t even been spied without all of its camo yet, and it still won’t be revealed until later this year. A report from the BMW forum Bimmerpost, however, suggests that European buyers might have the chance to order Level 3 autonomous driving on their upcoming 5 series by 2024, a year earlier than previously reported. The source, forum user ynguldyn, is the same as the one that suggested the return of the M5 Touring and previously predicted the launch of the M4 CSL this year.

The report states that the G60 5 Series will go on sale in July 2023, launching with a few ICE models and two i5-branded EVs. Next will come the launch of hybrids and another EV; after that point, the report states that in July 2024, “L3 autonomous driving [will be] added to select European models.” The G61 5 Series (the wagon version) will be offered with Level 3 autonomous driving at the same time, although the user further notes that they have not seen Level 3 functionality (which they claim will be marketed by BMW as “Personal Pilot”) shown as an option for United States-spec cars at all. As one final bit of salt in the wound for U.S. buyers, the report further confirms the U.S. won’t be getting the long-roof 5 Series wagon at all, autonomous or not. The Drive reached out to BMW for any confirmation of the forum post but had not heard back at the time of this story’s publication.

Level 3 autonomy is defined by the SAE as the lowest tier of computerized driving assists that constitute “self-driving” functionality. Most higher-end cars on the market today offer Level 2 autonomy (for example, lane keep and adaptive cruise control working together, such as with Tesla’s Autopilot or GM’s Super Cruise), which still requires active input and attention from the driver at all times. The jump to Level 3 autonomy is massive because it dictates that the driver can stop paying attention to the road for portions of the drive (although they may need to take over when alerted). The car can drive without input from a human being at lower speeds in good conditions, such as in traffic jams on well-lit freeways. There are currently no Level 3-equipped cars for sale in the U.S., although that could change later this year, as Mercedes-Benz has announced that it intends to offer the S-Class and EQS with the feature in California and Nevada by the end of 2022.

BMW would not be the first company to offer Level 3 autonomy—that honor goes to Honda with the Japan-only Legend and followed closely by Mercedes, which already offers the EQS and S-Class in Europe with Level 3 functionality—but it would be part of an incredibly small club. BMW notes that it has been experimenting with self-driving research on public roads since 2011 and has partnered with Qualcomm to build the sensor and computer networks required for autonomous driving. But if the mystery poster is right, the results of those years of development might be seen in short order.

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