This week BMW did their best Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine, announcing that HERE Technologies’ HD Live Map would be used to enable hands-free driving in the United States and Canada. BMW stated, “HERE is one of the world’s first companies to provide high-definition maps for Level 2+ automated driving capabilities in series production vehicles.”

Which left me asking, “Where?”

BMW continued, “This is the result of a long-standing collaboration between BMW and HERE on next-generation mapping capabilities.”

Between BMW and where?

What is “Level 2+,” anyway? Well, according to JD Power, “Level 2 driving automation applies to vehicles with advanced driving-assistance systems (ADAS) that can take over steering, acceleration, and braking in specific scenarios. But even though Level 2 driver support can control these primary driving tasks, the driver must remain alert and is required to actively supervise the technology at all times.”

The plus portion is not an official rating, but essentially means that the vehicle can drive itself, while a driver is still required to monitor things and take over when needed. Level 3 would be a leap ahead of Level 2+, allowing drivers, in certain situations, to perform other tasks than driving or monitoring.

Why is this significant? BMW explains, “Now, the all-new BMW 7 Series is the premium automaker’s first production vehicle to launch with SAE Level 2+ automated functions at a maximum speed of 85 mph. With the HERE HD Live Map on board, this function enables hands-free driving on Interstates and highways, provided drivers remain focused and ready to take control. Additionally, the HERE platform provides functionality for the vehicle’s navigation system to display in real-time where the SAE Level 2+ function can be activated safely.”

Stay tuned for updates; there are already plans to branch out beyond automated driving on Interstates and highways. At the announcement, Fred Hessabi, the executive vice-president and chief customer officer (really, that’s the official title) at HERE Technologies, said, “We look forward to supporting the expansion of Level 2+ to all types of roads.”

Douglas Lerner’s 1989 325i sedan drives itself (or maybe Lerner is just hidden in the reflection of the driver’s side window). [Photo by Mike Bevels.]

So there you have it: BMW’s hands-free driving is HERE, and it’s here to stay. But I don’t see the big deal about driverless cars; as you can see from the image above, E30s have been able to do this for years.—Mike Bevels

[Photos courtesy of BMW and Mike Bevels.]

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