The ultimate self-driving machines will take over in 2021

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2021. That’s the year that Skynet fully autonomous cars will take to the streets, sporting the blue and white roundel. To bring about this utopian future, BMW has partnered up with Intel and the autonomous hardware and software specialist Mobileye.

The three aim to develop systems that will permit highly and fully automated driving in highway as well as urban environments, coupled with “automated ridesharing solutions.” The latter phrase refers to plans by BMW and several other automakers to (pardon this next word) disrupt the concept of car ownership by making it possible to summon a car via a mobile device, use it for a bit at what hopefully won’t be minibar prices, and then let it go about its business. Autonomous driving tech will be crucial to this vision of the future, as it will allow fleets of autonomous vehicles to serve users in urban and rural areas alike, without burdening them with much of what is included in car ownership.

BMW is aiming for Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy: Level 3 will allow the drivers to take their eyes off the road, while Level 4 will allow drivers to catch up on sleep or work. Further on down the line BMW wants to achieve Level 5 autonomy; vehicles without a driver inside, letting the machines take over.

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Along with Intel and Mobileye, BMW plans to create a common platform for Level 3 to Level 5 autonomy, one that it car share (license) to other automakers.

“Highly autonomous cars and everything they connect to will require powerful and reliable electronic brains to make them smart enough to navigate traffic and avoid accidents,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “This partnership between BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye will help us to quickly deliver on our vision to reinvent the driving experience. We bring a broad set of in-vehicle and cloud computing, connectivity, safety and security, and machine-learning assets to this collaboration enabling a truly end-to-end solution.”

In what futuristic vehicle might we see this autonomous technology? The production version of the BMW iNEXT concept, which previews an electric 7-series analog, will form the backbone of BMW’s autonomous car efforts, as will the rest of the i Division given time.

Between now and then, BMW will add an i model or two to its lineup, combining hybrid and electric tech in several stepping-stone models.

“We have already showcased such groundbreaking solutions in our VISION NEXT 100 vehicle concepts,” said Harald Krueger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG. “With this technological leap forward, we are offering our customers a whole new level of sheer driving pleasure whilst pioneering new concepts for premium mobility.”

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