The BMW Personal Pilot L3 controls the car's speed and road position, keeping the distance between other vehicles and lanes at safe levels.
The hands-free capability only drives the car up to 37 mph, so is useful for commuters stuck in rush hour traffic, freeing them up to check their phone, write emails, read documents or even stream shows on the car's central screen.
The function is being launched in Germany in the new BMW 7 Series but shows an exciting development in the move to automated driving.
It comes as the King's Speech also paved the way for driverless vehicles in the UK. New laws would mean driverless buses, delivery lorries and vans could be on the roads by the end of 2029.
BMW's Level 3 builds on its Level 2 capabilities available in the new BMW 5 Series, which allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel - but they must be ready to take back control of the driving at all times.
BMW says the Level 3 technology is also the first to be reliable in the dark.
However, it is not a fully driverless experience, with drivers needing to be ready to take the wheel if conditions change. In an announcement on its website, BMW said: "When the function is being used, the customer still has to be ready to reassume the task of driving at any time – i.e. as soon as the situation on the road requires them to or the stretch of road suitable for using the BMW Personal Pilot L3 comes to an end.
"Visual and acoustic signals let the driver know they have to take over control once more. If the driver does not respond as required, the vehicle is brought to a controlled standstill."
In the UK, the Automated Vehicles Bill announced by King Charles earlier this month will also include a law where self-driving car users won't be prosecuted if their vehicle causes a fatal crash.
Instead, the company that made the vehicle will be responsible for safety failures.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is keen to embrace new technology such as AI, driverless cars and green technology, and the Government believes the first self-driving cars could be on the roads as early as 2026, a source told the Telegraph.
Mervyn Skeet, director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers, said: “We’ve long been calling for a regulatory framework that ensures their safe roll-out and firmly establishes the UK as a world leader for this technology.
“It’s critical that the regulations enable relevant data-sharing between the vehicle manufacturers and insurers in the interests of motorists and both industries. We also want to see clear definitions and distinctions between automated driving technology and assisted driving technology.
“It will be vital that people understand the capabilities of the vehicles they’re driving and are able to use them safely. We look forward to working further with the government as the legislation progresses.”
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