BMW self-drives to Level 5 autonomy by 2021?

German automaker BMW is confident it can field a car capable of Level 5 autonomy capabilities by 2021, the launch date for its first fully autonomous vehicle.

Elmar Frickenstein, the senior vice president of autonomous driving at BMW, said as much during an automotive panel in Berlin. He also said that the car would have different levels of autonomy, depending on where and how the car was being used.

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BMW would fit the car with Level 5, 4, and 3 autonomy capabilities. We aren’t entirely sure what that means, as the only downside to Level 4 autonomy is the system is unable to function in certain environments, unlike Level 5, which is full autonomy across all environments.

Level 3 is much easier to achieve, as it only provides autonomous driving capabilities in certain zones and at certain speeds. A system could be categorized as Level 3 if it was able to drive on most roads in a sunny day without assistance.

Some automakers are planning to skip Level 3 autonomy, as it poses risky questions like ‘who is at fault if the car crashes’ and, as shown by a Ford study, it can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel and not being able to take over when needed.

BMW has not shown its progress as publicly as Google, Tesla, and General Motors, but its partnership with Intel and recently acquired Mobileye shows it is building a consortium to help with the development of the autonomous vehicle.

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