With the huge rush of advancements in self-driving technology in the last few years, it seems as if we’re on the precipice of this very futuristic-feeling idea being a reality. And car maker BMW agrees.
According to a report by Reuters, the German car company intends to have a fully self-driving car by 2021, according to a statement from the company’s Senior Vice President for Autonomous Driving, Elmar Frickenstein.
“We are on the way to deliver a car by 2021 with level 3, 4, and 5,” he said during a panel this week. The vehicles will use different levels of autonomy based on where and how they’re being driven. Reuters notes that BMW partnered with Intel and Mobileye last year to accelerate development, so it serves to reason that the company is confident with what it’s seeing come out of that partnership.
What is a Level 5 car?
There are five different levels of autonomy that cars can achieve as laid out (PDF) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The cars you and I are driving today are Level 0 cars, where the driver fully controls all functions of the vehicle. The self-driving cars on the road right now are Level 1 and 2, requiring someone to be in the driver seat at all times. Level 3 is where things start getting fun.
A Level 3 car can still require intervention from the driver, but driver monitoring is not required by this point. They’re simply in the driver’s seat just in case an emergency comes up. A Level 4 vehicle is considered fully autonomous, and can perform all the functions of driving without human intervention, though extreme conditions may be outside of what is considered standard driving. A Level 5 vehicle is expected to be able to handle any possible driving situation as well as a human would, including extreme conditions.
So BMW essentially thinks that, before four more years are out, we’ll have cars that don’t need human intervention at all regardless of the situation.