BMW 360 Degree Collision AvoidanceBMW has showcased a prototype collision avoidance system that it says will virtually eliminate the risk of scraping car panels at slow speed. 

The tech has been dubbed ‘smart bumper’ and uses laser sensors to place an electronic protective shield around the car.

If, at speeds below 10-15km/h, the car detects something is about to enter this, it will gently apply the brakes to keep the obstacle at bay – effectively making it an unscrapable, undentable car.

BMW demonstrated it in a virtual parking bay in Las Vegas, with low walls, tight corners and gaps that looked wide enough to fit the i3 demonstrator through, but were not.

Despite our best efforts, we could not make the i3 hit anything: each time we got near to an obstacle, the brakes were applied and we were kept away from it.

The system uses four lasers which provide a much higher level of accuracy (and faster response) than today’s ultrasonic sensors. It also builds up a virtual map as it drives, scanning for obstacles and remembering where they are.

This means the i3 can avoid, for example, scratching the side of a car on a tight wall in a car park: the front laser will map its location and, even though it’s in the blind spot, stop the car from hitting it.

BMW admits the technology is still five years away, because the lasers need to be made production-ready. But the firm is confident the car you can’t scratch in a car park is on the horizon…