“Hands-off, eyes-on” driving mode and Active Lane Change Assist approved on German motorways

The implementation of technologies and advanced driver assistance systems that automate driving increases the comfort of driving a vehicle and reduces the possibility of human error, and thus improves safety and traffic flow. In January 2023, the SAE level 3 system – DRIVE PILOT from Mercedes-Benz – was approved for use on public roads in the state of Nevada in the United States. In April 2023 „hands-off, eyes-on” driving was given a „green light” in the UK when Ford Motor Company was granted permission to use advanced driver assistance technology (BlueCruise) for vehicles traveling on selected sections of motorways in England, Scotland and Wales.

The advanced driver assistance system – Autobahnassistent – developed by BMW is another example of such activities. It became the first system of its kind in Germany to be homologated and approved for use on motorways at speeds of up to 130 km/h (81 mph). Approval for the use of the system was issued in June 2023 by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority – Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA). The Autobahnassistent functionality for SAE Level 2 automated driving will be available on BMW 5 and 7 Series models.

Autobahn Assistant is a system that allows the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel and put it in a comfortable position for extended periods of time on designated routes, provided that they keep a close eye on the traffic situation and remain ready to take over the steering again. The driver’s behavior is constantly monitored by an internal warning camera. If distraction is detected, the driver receives a visual and acoustic warning. If the driver fails to respond to the warnings, the system intervenes to bring the vehicle to a safe stop.

The system is a combination of active cruise control, i.e. a device that maintains speed and distance from the car in front, with an advanced set of cameras and radars monitoring the situation in the vehicle and its surroundings.

An additional feature, unique on a global scale, is Active Lane Change Assist, which can be initiated and confirmed by the driver’s glance in the exterior mirror. If the traffic situation is suitable, the system makes the necessary steering movements and adjusts the driving speed, for example when overtaking. Confirmation of the lane change process with the turn signal is then no longer necessary, but still possible. The system operates at speeds between 60 and 180 km/h.