BMW Plans to Release a Level 5 Autonomous Car by 2021

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【Summary】According to BMW’s senior vice president for autonomous driving, Elmar Frickenstein, the German automaker is on track to deliver a Level 5 autonomous vehicle by 2021.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Mar 21, 2017 12:30 PM PT
BMW Plans to Release a Level 5 Autonomous Car by 2021

A few years ago, automakers and companies were hard at work on putting driverless vehicles on the road, regardless of how autonomous the cars were. Now, it's not enough to have a self-driving car, as automakers are in a heated battle to release the most advanced autonomous vehicle. 

All Or Nothing

At a panel discussion in Berlin, Germany, BMW's senior vice president, Elmar Frickenstein, claimed that the German automaker would have a Level 5 car on the road by 2021. "We are on the way to deliver a car in 2021 with Level 3, 4, and 5," Frickenstein told the panel reports Reuters. The upcoming car, as pointed out by Frickenstien, will have varying levels of self-driving capabilities based on how and where the car will be operated. 

As a recap, there are six different autonomy levels according to the SAE. Level O cars are ones that are completely controlled by a human driver. Level 1 cars have a few features that can take control out of the driver's hands like adaptive cruise control, parking assist, and lane keeping assist, but require the driver to be ready at all times to take over. 

The Tesla Model S is an example of a Level 2 vehicle, as it does the majority of driving. But the driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle if necessary. Level 3 cars take complete control away from the driver's hands in certain situations like driving on a highway, allowing the driver to take their eyes off the road in confidence. 

Vehicles that are rated as a Level 4 are capable of driving themselves, but have some trouble in inclement weather and in unusual driving environments. An autonomous vehicle with a Level 5 rating can drive without any input from a human driver. 

Realistic Goals Or Farfetched Ideas?

Frickenstein's remarks, then, may be a stretch, as Level 5 vehicles are still a long ways away. According to Automotive News, he then clarified his statements, stating that BMW's iNext car, which is set to come out in 2021 will come with Level 3 self-driving technology. From the reports, it sounds like the iNext will be capable of being equipped with Level 4 and 5 tech, but that decision will most likely rely on regulation and the availability of 5G telecommunications. 

This is the first time an automaker has come out and boldly stated that it is working on a Level 5 driverless car. The majority of automakers are working on deploying vehicles with Level 3 and 4 technology. Ford, for instance, set a goal of putting a fleet of Level 4 self-driving vehicles onto the road by 2021

BMW, though, does have an ace up its sleeve. The German automaker teamed with Intel and Mobileye last year with the intention of unveiling autonomous tech. With two large technology companies at its side, BMW could leapfrog other automakers and be the first to unveil a Level 5 car, but it's unlikely. 

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