The Spark

BMW’s New Sensors Do the Braking for You

In episode 7 of The Spark, the German car manufacturer wants to cut down on accidents caused by human error

The Crash-Proof Car in the Works at BMW

More than 90 percent of auto-related crashes are due to human error: a distraction, a mistake.

With its new “Active Assist” technology, BMW is trying to do everything it can to take those errors out of the equation.

Using laser sensors, the system effectively keeps a 360-degree vigil and will automatically and gently brake before a vehicle hits any stationary object.

Photographer: Alan Jeffries/Bloomberg

If you drive full throttle at a wall, Active Assist will stop mere inches away, without the driver touching the brakes.

While collision-avoidance systems are not new—many cruise-controls automatically slow down when you close too fast on the car in front—BMW’s sensors keep track of walls, columns, and other stationary objects, constantly redrawing a map of the surrounding area.

The next step for BMW now is moving objects, which would involve developing algorithms to show not only where a cyclist or car is, but where they will be.

Photographer: Alan Jeffries/Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s profile of BMW’s Active Assist is the latest installment of The Spark, which looks at innovators finding solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.

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