BMW's next-gen drivetrain technology will read your mind

BMW 5 Series saloon 2013 front action
Credits: Matt Vosper
19 Feb, 2014 11:00pm Dave Humphreys

The BMW of the near-future will have your gearchanges ready before you think you'll need them

Engineers at BMW are busy developing new 'Predictive DriveTrain Technology' that will be capable of improving your driving without you even noticing.

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The system uses the current sensor arrays and radar hardware found in Adaptive Cruise Control systems to carefully monitor the traffic around you, and should the situation dictate, will prime the car's automatic transmission with a lower gear to improve response. 

Normally, as a driver approaches slower cars in the lane ahead and decides to overtake, a quick prod of the throttle pedal causes the gearbox to change down, creating a pause before it's safe to perform the overtaking manoeuvre.

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Using BMW's new system, the nose-mounted radar detects the slower car ahead, the system predicts the potential overtake and as soon as the indicator is touched to signal out the transmission seamlessly engages a lower gear to enable a smooth move. This also has benefits in terms of reductions in fuel consumption by using 'overrun' shifts up rather than power shifts down.  

Another benefit of this new technology is discovered when merging with other traffic. Should the side and rear sensors detect a vehicle in the car's blind spot it will automatically boost acceleration by downshifting and enabling the car to nip in front and avoid any potential incident.

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BMW engineers say that intensive testing of this system will continue for up to another year before being rolled out to customers, and although the system uses no additional hardware it is not yet known whether it could be added to existing vehicles as part of a software upgrade.

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You see there is an inherent flaw here for the kickdown detection system. It relies on premise that the indicators are being used when overtaking - in a BMW. BMW are you high or something?

BMW's have indicators?! Well I never.

Excellent point. There are many assumptions with this type of tech, most of which cannot be tested. You can never know, or replicate, every possible situation that could occur on the road, therefore it cannot be tested in all situations, of which is crucial for something like this

I need a car like this! - "Sees" learner driver in Corsa up the road, primes 2nd gear ready for overtake!

Honestly if you really want this technology in a car and take the fun of actually driving out of it, just catch the bus or hire a chauffeur. I'm all for manufacturers creating new technology but not if it dilutes the experience so much.

To be honest on British roads virtually nobody uses the indicators, or even worse, they use them incorrectly (like leaving them on, signalling right in the roundabout when they exit etc). My friend's driving instructor explicitly told her not to use them as the others figure out her intentions by observing the movement of the car. Makes you wonder why they bother to install indicators.

Reads your mind? Oh, no, it doesn't. Boring