BMW 7 Series Will Add Remote Parking Feature In U.S.
BMW has scored a huge victory of sorts after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) ruled to allow the automaker’s Park Assistant Plus feature to be included in the 2016 BMW 7 Series. The new exemption from the NHTSA clears the way for BMW to begin offering the feature in the U.S. market. A BMW spokesman confirmed to Automobilemag that the features will be made available in the US even though a clear timetable has yet to be established.
The Park Assistant Plus system is a remote driving feature in the 7 Series that essentially allows owners to drive the cars in and out of a parking spot using only the touchscreen key fobs. The automaker didn’t offer the feature in the U.S. market because of a federal law - FMVSS 114 - that requires all U.S. market cars to have a shift-interlock function, meaning a car’s brake pedal must be depressed before the transmission can be shifted out of Park. Knowing that the brake pedals in the 7 Series are not depressed when the system is activated, BMW didn’t even bother to include the feature among U.S.-bound models of the 7 Series.
The German automaker did do its due diligence and petitioned the NHTSA for an exemption to the rule. To its surprise, the government agency acquiesced to the petition, saying that the wording in the rule was vague enough to be subject to different interpretations. The rule, according to the NHTSA, meant to say that the brakes had to be “applied” before the transmission can be shifted out of Park. Since BMW’s computers automatically apply the brakes before shifting out of Park, the NHTSA deemed the Park Assistant Plus feature legal to be used in the U.S.
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Why it matters
This is a huge win for BMW considering how attractive and important a technology like parking assist has become for discerning customers. Having Park Assistant Plus on the 7 Series now puts BMW on somewhat equal footing with Mercedes and the S-Class, which already has its own Active Parking Assist feature.
It’s also surprising from the point of view of the NHTSA, which has earned a reputation for being too stringent with the implementation of its rules. The agency has been accused more than once of behaving in this manner so it’s a little refreshing to see it err on the side of the automaker. I don’t foresee the NHTSA becoming more relaxed, so I think BMW should savor this decision for as long as it can.
In all seriousness, though, the Park Assistant Plus feature provides plenty of benefits, both from a safety and convenience point-of-view. With U.S.-bound models of the 7 Series set to receive this feature, I anticipate seeing more customers show interest in the model than it otherwise would’ve gotten without it. Let’s face it: customers are smarter and more perceptive these days. They identify the things they need in a vehicle and if a certain feature isn’t available, it becomes a huge detriment for the model in question. I don’t have the numbers to prove it, but I’m pretty sure that more than a handful of customers have passed on the opportunity of buying a 7 Series in part because of the absence of this feature and other models having some version of it. How am I sure? Because that’s exactly what I would’ve done.
But thanks to the NHTSA ruling in favor of BMW’s appeal, the 7 Series will have a bigger plate of safety and convenience features that owners can take full advantage of.
Read our full review on the BMW 7 Series here.