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Motorway in Schleswig-Holstein: In heavy traffic, BMW cars will soon be allowed to drive completely independently

Photo: Markus Scholz / dpa

After Mercedes-Benz, BMW now also wants to sell self-driving luxury cars in Germany. "We have been approved by the Federal Motor Transport Authority to offer Level 3 automated driving in Germany," BMW division manager Nicolai Martin told Handelsblatt. The system will be introduced in the 7 Series before the end of this year."

With highly automated driving at Level 3, the driver can temporarily leave the driving to the computer and no longer has to look at the road – he "is allowed to watch videos or answer e-mails," Martin explained. However, he must take back the wheel at any time within a few seconds if the computer asks him to do so.

In Germany, the driving computers in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and, in the future, the BMW 7 Series are allowed to drive completely independently on motorways in traffic jams or in heavy traffic at speeds of up to 60 km/h without the driver having to look at the road.

BMW has not yet provided any information on the price of the system. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse had expressed skepticism about the market prospects at the Consumer Electronics Show in January: A Level 3 system that constantly switches off in rain, fog, tunnels and in the dark, "no customer buys," he said in Las Vegas.

BMW is already further ahead than other manufacturers at Level 2. In the meantime, the BMW 5 Series has become the first car to receive approval for semi-automated driving up to 130 kilometres per hour on motorways in Germany: the driver can take his hands off the steering wheel, but must be able to follow the traffic closely and take over again immediately at any time. In August, the Ford Mustang Mach-E also received approval for partially automated driving up to 130 kilometers per hour on motorways in Germany. Tesla's much-discussed assistance systems are also on the same level, but they require you to keep your hands on the wheel at all times.