The Self-Drifting BMW:</br>Has Technology Gone Too Far?

Typically, when an automaker wants to show off one of its new high performance machines, they’ll hire a professional driver to wheel the car around a track and do some photogenic slides for the camera. With BMW’s new 235i, it seems like the driver might not even be necessary. In a display of its autonomous driving technology for CES in Vegas, BMW has managed to get the 235i to drift itself completely on its own – which can be seen in the video above.

On one hand, this isn’t unexpected given the amount of technology that manufacturers are packing into automobiles these days. On the other hand, drifting seems like one of the last ‘human’ elements of driving a high performance car – the thing you do when you turn all the electronic nannies off.

In the future, will you ride up in a new car, pull out a smartphone and command it to put on a drift exhibition for your buddies while you all sit and watch? It does sound interesting but I’m not sure if we’re ready for that yet. I’m curious to hear what you guys think about self-drifting cars and autonomous performance machines in general.



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F that car and whoever dreamed it up.


its not like its going to stop people from drifting, or like drifting for real will be less fun. no problems with it all from me. it means someday i get to drive without worrying about everyone else not paying attention.

side note, when its all autonomous cars are people gonna change bumper stickers to say "start sensing motorcycles"?


Technically, it couldn't drift by itself. It could only do a wimpy drift on super wet asphalt.


Joke. Complete joke. You wanna drift, or drive? Learn on your f'in own. Not some fancy technology. Also the ONLY thing I see this good for is if someone became ill behind the wheel and had to use that tech to park in a safe zone for emergency to arrive so you don't endanger those around you. One more reason I prefer the 90's era or 80's era of cars.


@KyushaLOL I don't know how I did not notice that. Good comment!


BMW calls their cars " The Ultimate Driving Machine " ...They might as well call them the " Ultimate Drives-Itself while you sit back and forget the value of operating a vehicle machine " if this ever becomes a reality. Psh. I respect the technology, but won't embrace it.


While i was taking a nap my BMW was drifting a few blocks away by itself. Isn't this cool? Just joking! The man and the machine must always be one and the BMW above is a nightmare.


It would be fun to watch the first couple of times, but the novelty will wear off very quickly. 
Having someone show off their self-drifting car at a meet would would be like a stranger coming up to you on the street to brag about their expensive watch. Yes it is impressive technology but they are still a douche.


I don't get it... I like driving cars.


@troyshear So true. Its interesting to see a self driving car but i think it might be for lazy rich people lol.


requirements for driving:

throttle cable
clutch pedal
traction control off


If you where drunk and decided to drive home in your self driving car and the police stopped you. Whos actually driving the car??


Many BMW owners will be saying - I can't drift, but my car can...


I watched that video earlier and I don't think the car is actually drifting. I'm pretty sure that they set the car to go around a corner at a high speed and wet the exit. When the car hit the water throttle on it pivoted and what you see is the car recovering from a slide. Camera angle and briefness makes it look like a drift but even in that short clip you can see the car start to straighten at the end.

Gianluca FairladyZ

Sure it is a big Demonstration of Technology, but i don't know if this will have Attention for Long time... I'm not a drifter, because i simply didn't practice it yet..  But drifting for me is an art to control the car in an "incontrolled" Status, so this means for me that the Driver practicing this driving style has to be a good and skilled one! And this is something remarkable, something Special!
But... It's a nice way to introduce People to the drift world ^^ LoL....


Never! I won't even get in a self-driving car. A car is meant to be driven, drifted, parked by the driver, by the human. And this is just a demonstration. I haven't even seen the video.


I think it's just a tech demo more than anything else, no more, no less. Even if somehow it did get put into an option, just don't buy it. Just because they put in traction control, doesn't mean you have to use it lol


One of the worst promo vids in a long time. Buy a "sports" car.... Then don't drive your sports car. Stupid


Buy a expensive sports car...that does everything sporty for you. LAME!!!


Anything that makes the car drives automatically are suck...


I think we shouldn't over-interpret this. In the end it says: "Enhanced safety and precision at the vehicle's limits with highly automated driving - A research project ..."
This definitely is not meant as replacing the driver or even letting the car drive itself in a "manly way". It's a safety feature, to teach the car how to behave and correct in fast and possibly dangerous situations. 
Although i don't believe in the benefit of safety assists on the road as people should (and could) just go back to concentrating on the road instead of fiddling with their entertainment system, this kind of technology could prevent mistakes in certain sport-environments. I'd rather see my car on track than in armco and - maybe - it could help me with that while preserving good laptimes instead of ruining them like ESP and Traction controls. 
I hear all the driving-gods crying out about a sports car having to be "raw", "unfiltered" and "involving" but seriously - this is a 235i not a die hard 993RS oder Radical. Just take a look at the usual Nordschleife Touristenfahrten Crash-Compilation videos and you see what a good working assist like this could be good for.


They seem be demonstrating totally autonomic driving. I guess they have mapped the track and are using DGPS to position the car really accurately. I don't see any camera or radar system that might be trying to "see" the track. Programming the control system is probably quite time consuming but should still be quite easy to do. Controlling a drift is harder than making the car avoid cones but it is still possible.

This kind of system doesn't have any consumer markets since you would need everything that the car might collide with accurately mapped. But probably R&D department will love this as you can but production cars to durability tests without any real or robot drivers. The car should have electric power steering and it probably can operate brakes too with ESP system but I'm not sure if the car could operate the gearbox without additional equipment. Maybe it can.

If they would want to do some kind of "drift assist" they probably could just make it work just like standard ESP but just make the car drift nicely instead of staying in "control". Many people would be interested in this of system but I don't think that law makers or police would be really happy. But still, there are cars with launch control systems too which isn't very suitable for (legal) street use.

I'm just thinking the reasons why they developed this kind of system. I'm not fan of driving assistants and comfort equipment. I'm not going to buy new cars since there millions of old cars available...


They had a BMW like this on Top Gear ages ago; they drove it on a hot lap, then it proceeded to kind of copy and paste the lap again, surely this is the same thing.


Obviously meant for the i-Robots of the future that don't enjoy real interaction with anything. Texting instead of calling and talking, Google hangouts instead of actually hanging out, cars that drive themselves, books that read themselves and Facebook-only friends. Technology over interaction. Appliances instead of applying yourself.


Not so sure if they're making it drift, or made part of the circuit wet to show how the car would respond to sudden changes in available grip like in the real world? I know many people (including myself) won't use cruise control if there's standing water around. The more intelligence the car has the better. As long as it can be fully turned off to still let you be in control when you want to.


SeBaBunea "A horse is meant to be broken, driven, and parked by the driver, by a human." 

i'm not picking on you, its just your comment is a perfect setup to offer a perspective.  i think easier and "safer" travel has always been the goal since humans have moved past self propulsion, i.e. walking or running into horseback.  we tend to have our reservations when something new comes along.  i like driving and drifting, so an auto-automobile is not for me, the same as someone may like horseback riding, an older form of travel, may be for them.  what i see happening is what goes on now days with horses, few may use them for travel here and there, but if you are an enthusiast, there will be tracks or arenas that cater to you.  

this is all assuming that we can agree on an analogy and not go into a debate about how a horse is a living creature and a car was solely built for travel, because i could then offer the statement that our early cars were extremely bare bones and advancements however small (like seat belts) were often fought with great criticism, the same as this auto pilot feature may be getting.


This is why I'll only drive an old car. I want it to be between the car and driver not car and computer with the driver being optional


Just vomited!


They should have named it DIS Connected Drive and not Connected..


Nope, i've moved on to older cars because of stuff like this. Yes my 60's mustang handles horribly for now and has nothing but a fm radio, but it's more fun to drive, and easy to work on. Maybe as these cars get so insanely advanced it will cause some enthusiasts to shift to previous models. I guess the day is coming where the rich guy on the track next to you will out drive you with out ever putting his hands on the steering wheel.


imagine a future where you will live your life virtually, while you remain seated in a perfectly decontaminated room, where you can't get ill, where you can't get hurt... would you call it "living your life" ?


You guys think youre purists but youre actually just being backwards traditionalists. This is a tech demo to show that car safety tech has advanced to a point where the car can correct itself in a loss of traction situation without direct steering or throttle input. This in and of itself is progress. It is not replacing the driver and nevertheless doesnt ever have to be used by the driver if they dont choose to.
Think about how absurd people who thought like you sounded when groundbreaking safety tech like ABS or seatbelts were introduced in cars for the first time. "What will happen to the joy of threshold braking yourself?? If i want to strap myself in the car with my bare hands in case of collision I should be able to! God gave me hands to hold on duh!"
Jesus sometimes car "enthusiasts" are such whiny children. Actually most times. Car lovers on the other hand understand and appreciate forward thinking as well as valuing the essense of driving not only faster but safer.


Rotary but did HE really out drive you or did his car? 

maybe we should go talk to some chess masters and see their opinions on how they like to loose to computers?

ps your lucky you have fm radio, i only have my humming and the song selections sucks!


Chris Nuggets ABS is for wimps.. but ill agree with the seat belts..  it has been proven that proper threshold braking will out brake ABS any day of the year, it has also been proven that seat belts save lives, so lets not get into the rhetoric of what a car lover thinks versus a car enthusiast thinks. in the end you are trying to lump alot of people into two different groups that would have two different definitions to any one individual.

what i do agree with is the forward thinking bit, but they need to reach even further and just go full autonomous and thus let the people who are uninterested in being in full control of their vehicle sit back and enjoy the ride. if you think about it people drive more distracted now a days because cars ARE safer.. thus they rely on the aids given to them too much almost like a crutch. 

in the end it also depends on what your idea of progress is.. 

if your idea of progress is to get people to work and where they need to be safely in the quickest possible manner, then the true solution is to remove the biggest detriment to safety which is the driver period and money should be spent on public transit for those of us who don't mind traveling with other people or autonomous driving for those of us who enjoy their own personal transportation.

if your idea of progress is the enjoyment of the act of driving combined with the skill development it takes to pilot a 3000lb projectile with accuracy and control, then maybe we should get rid of ABS, traction control, electronic assists etc etc. 

in the end its all about choice if i am able to disable this feature in a car (just like i am able to disable ABS) i have absolutely no qualms about them adding it in to new cars. and if we dong have the choice to disable this then i have the choice not to buy said car.


sexy keith  Found that video; 

This new one looks pretty much like an evolution of that original system that Top Gear tested.


if it keeps people out of my lane while driving towards me or along with me, keeps them driving at the speed limit (not severely below it), actually stopping at stop signs instead of cutting me off and fixes people who dont care about driving or respecting others on the road im all for it, some people dont give a shit about driving so if they can get an automated car that they dont have to do anything but sit in and itll drive at the speed limit, stay in their lane and be a more careful, safer driver than them then i hope they get them so i can drive and enjoy driving and not have to worry about someone hitting me or driving me off the road because they dont care about driving.


That is... Fu*ked.
They've gone way too far.
They might as well make it fly. A car which can do vertical take offs and landings would be more worth the time and money.


I'm trying to think of a chore you could actually do in the car...


@Mike Chris Nuggets ABS is for people who can't brake. Most drivers.

cody saunders sa22c

man this is more controversial than abortion #stressed

Nizaam Karjieker

If it can improve car control and handling if the car gets out of shape due to driver error, then it makes sense and I'm all for it. I do not think the demonstration is used for actual drifting purposes. I think it is more a demonstration of the intricate car control computers of today can achieve. Just don't put too much faith in the tech, after all this is BMW and their cars are DESIGNED TO BREAK as the Motorplan expires.


Future generations will die of boredom, as cleverness slowly erodes any sense of adventure.


bakayaru More time for facebook, 9GAG and youtube whilst driving...


Automated cars will never go on sale because if it fails and there is a crash who's to blame?


To be honest, I have been very unsatisfied with the future of BMW. I am not a fan of the i8 or that little electric concept they have debuted, and nor do I like the idea for a self driving car either. What ever happened to the time where drivers had complete control of the cars and a car was only as good as its driver. Yes, it may seem backwards but how lazy does the human have to be. Why can't we be trusted to drive cars ourselves. While it may seem like a great idea to some, I believe that technology such as this takes the joy out of driving. There is something about pulling off a drift purely by skill that can put a smile on anyone's face. What thrill would anyone get out of pressing a few buttons? Call me crazy, but I'm just not for it.


You guys are missing the whole point, as far as real life use this can be used as a teachers aid.  Little did you think we weren't all born drift pros so it would be a good way to teach/learn the basics.  You can choose not to use it lol so you can still feel the road and pretend to be Michael Schumacher.  The real use I see in the future is when parking your car and you don't feel like fetching it you can simply call it over.  Sort of like a robotic valet that doesn't thrash on your car when parking it.  I'm sure the BMW group is well aware of its enthusiast following (which are mostly 2nd+ owner purchasers) and aren't trying to offend, just trying to push forward on technology.  Some of the comments below remind me of a Futurama episode (Obsoletely Fabulous)  where Bender decided to Downgrade himself by converting to a wood body vs metal.  /rant


montreal e36 I don't think we missed the whole point. BMW are simply using motor sport to showcase how advanced driver aids are today. Most motor enthusiasts simply want a car to drive - not a car to be a passenger within one. Indeed, technology can enhance our driving experience, however, average Joe can't afford a BMW. You should have learned the basics from your first few driving lessons and I don't think that many people pretend to be Michael Schumacher...


There is no reason to even get into the car! this is just stupid! driving around town, sure, taking us kids to school, absolutely, but racing, DRIFTING, that shouldn't be touched, one of the very, very few mistakes BMW has ever made.




MilesHayler Chris Nuggets you do know abs is there to stop you in an emergency situation such as when you are about to t-bone someone and don't have time to assess the situation properly (eg the road condition and grip level) because you are about to kill another person and are panicking. Sure you can stop quicker without abs in a controlled environment but on public road you are not in control of the situation so I would appreciate that I'm not killed by some idiot who thinks he's a driving god


This is disgusting...


This is disgusting...




To me morally it could as serious as to clone human beings. Too bad BMW opened the box of eventuality


Yeah just when BMW seem to be designing sexier and more exciting cars they are increasingly becoming a synthetic car co. First they synthesize engine sounds... Now they synthesize car control too. They are no longer the drivers choice of the premium brands. That race is more and more being run by Audi and Mercedes...