BMW got a special mention in today's press conference by US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who noted that the company's self-parking system — which is already available in some models outside the US — is compliant with federal regulations. Previously, BMW had specifically avoided bringing the system here for fear of running afoul of those rules.
The mention was in the context of a much broader federal effort to make transportation rules friendlier to the development of self-driving technology — including a $3.9 billion commitment in President Obama's proposed budget, set to be unveiled next month. Rudimentary systems like BMW's self-parking feature are seen as a first step to fully autonomous cars.
In the wake of Foxx's announcement, BMW says that the "reinterpretation" of the rules "clears the path" for the deployment of its self-driving tech in the US, and that it intends to do so "as quickly as possible," though it doesn't have a timeframe yet.
It appears that backroom dealings between automakers and the office of the Secretary factored prominently into today's press conference, considering that Tesla just enabled self-parking several days ago — before Foxx's announcement, and well after BMW decided not to bring the technology stateside.
Here's the full statement from BMW spokesman Dave Buchko:
The reinterpretation of the regulation FMVSS 114, announced today by Transportation Secretary Foxx, clears the path for the introduction of automated driving features like Remote Control Parking as offered in the new BMW 7 Series.
This will enable us to put forward that technology for approval by the US Department of Transportation, which we intend to do as quickly as possible. We do not yet have a timeframe for when we can make the technology available to customers in the US.
The technology in this feature is such that we will be able to make it available for cars that do not already have it.
Correction: The article originally stated that existing owners of cars that support BMW's Remote Control Parking feature would not be able to enable it, but the statement from company spokesman Dave Buchko indicates otherwise. The text has been updated to clarify.
Update Jan 15th, 1:51PM ET: BMW now says that already sold cars will not get a self-parking retrofit. See our new article here.