Those who have trouble parking can rejoice
In an era when automakers are leaving auto shows for technology shows, it’s a given that cars are smarter than they were a decade ago. Whether for safety or convenience, new technologies are constantly grabbing our attention. BMW is competitive in this game; the automaker has equipped the new 2019 and 2020 3 Series model with many safety technologies we tested and liked after driving a 2019 BMW 330i recently. Here are four of those tech features.
Parallel Parking Assistant
This feature isn’t new for the BMW brand, but it’s the first time we’ve seen it on a 3 Series. Park Assist Plus lets the driver parallel park with the touch of a button. To activate, press the parking button next to the shifter and start moving ahead. This will turn on the side and front cameras, showing their views on the infotainment screen, and alert the parking assistant to start looking for a parking space. Once found, an upright “P” appears on the screen, and you must touch either that or the iDrive knob on the center console to confirm.
After that, two green lights will illuminate on the steering wheel, the turn signal will automatically turn on (whether it’s the left or right will depend on the side you’re parking on), and the car will start to back into the space. At this point, the driver must let go of the brake, throttle, and steering, as the system will take control of all of that plus the transmission. The system will switch from reverse to drive depending on where it needs to go, and once it’s done parking it will switch the gearbox to park and activate the parking brake. The whole thing happens in about the same amount of time it took you to read this paragraph, and it’s impressive to experience the first few times.
Perpendicular Parking Assistant
Just like with the parallel parking assistant, the 2019 3 Series can automatically park itself in a Costco parking lot. To activate, follow the same steps as above, but the upright “P” that appears on the screen will instead be oriented sideways to indicate that the system has found a perpendicular spot. This feature is a bit trickier, as I had to leave more space between myself and the other cars in the lot than what I’m used to when looking for parking. The system will reverse into the space in three points (usually) and will make sure the 3 Series is parked precisely between the two adjacent cars, leaving enough space to open the doors on both sides.
Similar to the parking assist, backup assist remembers the vehicle’s trace of the last 160 yards. For instance, if your driveway is a bit twisty, or if you’re parking on a long driveway, backup assist will automatically remember the steering inputs of the last 160 yards so that when it’s time to leave, you can back out of the driveway without looking at the mirrors or rear camera. When you’re about to leave and engage reverse, simply press the backup assist button on the screen, and two green lights will illuminate on the steering wheel, indicating that backup assist has been engaged. This means the system will take control of the steering, and all you have to do is control the brake pedal to moderate the backup speed. If you exceed 5 mph (8 km/h), the system will send an alert to slow down, and after it has completed the 160 yards, it will also alert you to take control of the car. This is especially handy when it’s dark outside or hard to see through the side mirrors.
Driving Assistant Professional Package
As part of the Driving Assistance Pro Package, the 2019 BMW 3 Series gets Extended Traffic Jam Assistant and Active Driving Assistant Professional, two technologies that help drivers on their commute. The package is priced at a whooping $1,700 USD, but we liked its features, especially the semiautonomous driving capabilities. This technology works once the driver turns on adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, at which time a steering wheel icon will appear on the TFT display. If the steering wheel is green, it means the system is activated and can read the lanes and road ahead; if it’s yellow, it’s having some trouble reading the road and will need control from the driver. I tried this feature on a mostly straight and calm two-way road with heavy rain, and the system was able to read the road most of the time. To test it, I took my hands off the steering wheel and my foot off the pedal and let the system do the work. After five seconds, the system asked me via the TFT display and an audible alert to take control of the steering, but I refused; after 10 more seconds, a louder alert started ringing, with the TFT screen turning bright red. At that time, a message popped on the screen saying that the 3 Series was going to stop if I didn’t take control, so it did. A BMW spokesman said that the car can pull over by itself, but I didn’t experience this. Instead, the 3 Series just stopped in the lane, but this was probably because there was no real shoulder on the road I was driving on. However, the audible alerts were strong enough to wake anyone up.