Should you drive the new BMW M3 or should it drive you?
The ultimate driving machine now drives itself. Which is a worrying state of affairs given the BMW M3 is meant to tickle the purist.
But the autonobots have been taking over at a rapid rate. Which isn’t good news for us weirdos who don’t see cars simply as a way from getting from one place to another; rather, a way to be entertained, intrigued and enthralled while getting from one place to other.
I’m not sure about you, but it feels like legislators are starting to side more with the ones and zeros than us fleshy sentient beings. And BMW is getting onboard with this as it offers Level 2 autonomous functions on most of its range as part of a £1,750 Technology Plus Pack. Level 2 means the M3 can maintain a safe distance from the car ahead, keep itself straddled in a lane and recognise others around it. You're still responsible for the car and have to be alert (and keep your hands on the wheel) at all times to make sure nothing goes wrong. Stray from the wheel for too long and you'll know about it soon enough.
To make the car drive itself you have to press a button on the steering wheel, then thumb a nub to dictate your speed. That wakes up the bulge of expensive radar and lidar in the bumper which keeps you at a measured distance to the car in front, but also keeps an eye on the car’s surroundings to anticipate and smoothly apply acceleration and deceleration. Not only that, the robot(s) can steer – even at motorway speeds – unless it/they sees something too aggressive and chicken out.
But despite my initial reticence, I’ve... actually been using the M3’s driverless functions a lot. Especially on motorway schleps, which keeps the car at a steady pace. And spending nearly £2k doesn’t just give you a car that drives itself. Bundled into the package are a few other techy things, notably the ability for the car to park itself (something I tried once but will never use again) and film itself – it can Vlog as part of the ‘Drive Recorder’ (basically a dash cam. Or heroic drift cam. Or – in extreme circumstances – both).
Later on down the line over the air updates will allow the autonomous features to grow, including Lane Change Assistant (so the car can autonomously change lanes by just using the indicator and the car will check the lane is clear and steer into it) and Traffic Light Assistant (allowing the M3 to identify red lights, bring the car to a stop, then set it off when the light goes green again).
In fact, the M3 has just received a hefty over the air update which has changed the gearbox settings, updated a load of tech and software but also introduced something called ‘M Sound Control’. More on that another time.
Good: The M3’s techy side makes driving a lot easier. So easy in fact, at times you don’t even need to do it.
Bad: Should BMW’s driver-focused car be overloaded and distracted with this much technology? It also makes it very expensive.