BMW has released footage of a car that can perform elegant four-wheel drifts. No news there you might think: one of the delights of BMW’s dogged determination to remain a largely rear-wheel-drive company is the resulting willingness of its cars to exit corners at unorthodox angles. The difference is that this one requires no driver input to do it. Even now certain cars with fly-by-wire steering can subtly apply corrective lock in emergency situations, but the novelty with the BMW is you don’t even need to be holding the wheel. Or be in the car. It is an entirely autonomous system that uses the most sophisticated GPS there is and ultra-sonic radar to drive itself. So it can be programmed to lap tracks with a clinical efficiency to bring a tear to Alain Prost’s eyes, or drift like Gilles Villeneuve in a three-wheeled Ferrari 312T4.
To those who think that BMW has completely missed the point, not to say lost the plot because clearly all the fun of drifting is in the driving, BMW’s response is as follows. It views this as a technology showcase that’s evaluating vital new innovations in anticipation of a time, perhaps as little as five years from now, where fully autonomous cars are allowed out onto the public road.
So while the development programme will continue, there is no prospect of a car that can even properly drive itself, let alone drift itself, going on sale any time soon.