BMW, like all self-respecting brands, offers all kinds of choices when it comes to semi-autonomous driving. Within a package with a name like ‘Driving Assistant Professional’, this goes quite far, resulting in cars that can keep their distance in a skillful and anticipatory manner and independently maintain the center of the lane. At least if you keep your hands on the wheel. That is a condition imposed on these types of Level 2 systems, for example, in the US. Carscoops now reports that, at least in that world region, something went wrong in the construction of the sensor system, causing BMWs to wrongly ‘think’ that their hands are being dutifully kept on the wheel. In practice, this means that these cars never ask you to keep your hands on the wheel and simply continue to steer automatically and independently.
Nice and comfortable, but of course not that safe with a system that is not intended for this kind of ‘hands-free’ support. BMW is therefore recalling more than 9,000 cars of the 7-series, 5-series, and the electric equivalents i7 and i5 in the US. Contrary to what you might think, the solution is not a software update but an actual, physical repair. The fault could have been caused by, yes, a misaligned screw hole for a ground wire, which would cause the system to receive the wrong signals. We have asked whether this defect can also appear in Europe but have not yet found anything in the RDW recall list.
Nowadays, it is indeed possible to legally drive ‘hands-free’, but not with this specific system and not in all countries. In Germany, among others, BMW, like Mercedes, has permission for Level 3 autonomy, whereby the driver only has to be ‘standby’ under certain circumstances. However, nowhere in the world is it the intention that a Level 2 assistance system will behave like a Level 3 system, as now seems to be the case with these specific BMWs.