BMW will not initially offer "eyes-off" Level 3 autonomous driving in the iX flagship electric SUV. The admission is further evidence that German automakers are struggling with the shift to unsupervised driving.
Earlier this year, Audi said it no longer expected to offer Level 3 in its A8 upper-premium sedan, while Mercedes-Benz said it is still developing its eyes-off system and it will likely only debut in the second half of next year in its new S-Class.
When BMW unveiled the Vision iNext concept in September 2018, the automaker's then-development chief Klaus Froehlich said the production version, which was unveiled on Wednesday as the iX, would have an advanced Level 3 system.
In the meantime, however, BMW's engineers have not been able to deliver a system that the automaker considers sufficiently reliable. A major concern for eyes-off driving and even more advanced levels of autonomous technology is that liability in case of an accident needs to shift from the driver to the automaker when the system in operation.
"The iX has been engineered to be Level 3-capable, but we will not offer it until we are completely certain that it meets our standards," a BMW spokesman told Automotive News Europe.
German brands are not the only ones hesitant to transfer responsibility: in October Tesla launched a closed beta of its Full Self-Driving suite, an option that currently costs $10,000 but only offers hands-off Level 2 functionality. Drivers are therefore still required to supervise the vehicle at all times and are explicitly warned it "may do the wrong thing at the worst time."