BMW isn’t mincing words when it comes to making self-driving promises. The automaker says it will have a fully autonomous car on the road by 2021.
To put it into technical terms, BMW is promising a Level 5 self-driving car. Level 5 is the top echelon autonomous vehicle that can do it all without a driver. We’re talking zero input from anyone in the car.
The level of autonomy is ranked from Levels 1 through 5. Level 3 vehicles are considered very achievable in the very near-term. They’ll still need a steering wheel and a driver who can take over in emergencies, but the car can handle some actions on its own like automatic emergency braking. Level 4 adds the ability of the car to steer itself in most situations.
BMW is working with both Intel and Mobileye to develop its self-driving technology. Those two companies develop extreme processing power and image recognition software. In January, the companies announced they’ll have a fleet of about 40 autonomous BMW vehicles on the roads by the second half of 2017.
In the future, expect cars to offer different levels of autonomy as well. Plus, there will probably be an option to turn off auto-pilot if drivers prefer to drive the old fashioned way.
Ford meanwhile plans to launch a fleet of Level 4 autonomous vehicles in 2021. They’ll be used in ride-sharing or ride-hailing services.