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BMW builds self-drifting cars

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BMW has showcased a pair of cars with, seemingly, only one aim in mind: to irritate the Stig. This is not advisable.

They've done this with a 2-Series Coupe and a 6-Series Gran Coupe, wearing the very latest autonomous technology designed to bring us one step closer to a driverless future. And also to get massively slidey and sideways.

It's a new element of BMW's ActiveAssist tech, which uses 360-degree radar, ultrasound, lidar (laser radar, not radar that detects liars, sadly) and camera detectors dotted around the car to bring the vehicle back into line during 'demanding' driving situations. Normally, a car's reaction to changing situations is anchored around the brakes, but BMW's system brings in the steering too. This prototype can sail through a high-speed slalom run, run round a marked-out circular course, manage lane changes and even maintain big lairy drifts.

The system prevents understeer and oversteer too, and can even react to sudden hydroplaning. In fact, the latest-gen ActiveAssist has already covered over 14,000 kilometres of testing, including a run between Munich and Nuremberg where it accelerated, braked and overtook slower traffic without any driver intervention, while keeping pace with traffic at speeds of up to 130kph.

It also follows on from BMW's 2009 Track Trainer project, which showcased the ideal line around the Nürburging, and later Laguna Seca, Zandvoort, Valencia, Hockenheimring and Lausitzring.

Research is still ongoing, and we'll likely see several more test BMWs later this year with near-production-ready autonomous technology - which, as TG's Paul Horrell explained here, is coming your way soon. But is this what we really want? An automated, self-drifting BMW? We sense our automated, self-drifting automaton may not be impressed.

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