Autonomous Car Progress: Approaching Level 5

BMW iNext rendering

I thought adaptive cruise control was the coolest thing ever. Simply set the cruise to 70 miles per hour, and the car does the rest, even slowing down to match traffic when speeds drop.

I first experienced adaptive cruise control in 2014, and now, just three years later, we have automakers talking about “level 5” autonomy.

What is level 5? It means a car can control itself in all situations and doesn’t need a driver for anything. We’re not there yet, but some powerful and influential automakers are on the path to making it happen. Before level 5 cars arrive, lower priced cars will receive levels of autonomy that make my adaptive cruise look like technology straight out of 1999.

Fresh off news that FCA could be acquired by a Chinese automaker, we learn that the company has joined forces with BMW to develop a level 5 autonomous car platform. It seems like a strange partnership, and it is, but AutoCar quoted FCA’s CEO Sergio Marchionne as saying,

In order to advance autonomous driving technology, it is vital to form partnerships among automakers, technology providers and suppliers…. Joining this co-operation will enable FCA to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective.

BMW will be the first to benefit from the partnership and will debut the iNext, an all-electric car with a 311-mile range, with level 3.5 autonomy in 2021. That means means that the iNext could be able to drive itself without human intervention (level 3 autonomy). BMW will also pick and choose elements from the level 4 category, such as the option of ending journeys if the driver fails to retake control in emergency situations.

Nissan will debut an autonomous system next month on the new Leaf. Called ProPilot Assist, the system will initially be for highway use and will be able to keep the car within its lane. Within two years, we can expect a version that will handle navigation and blind-spot monitoring, so the vehicle can change lanes without help. In four years, it’ll be able to drive in cities and stop at red lights.

Autonomy has, so far, been limited to high-end cars, but by implementing the technology in the Leaf, Nissan is among the first in the process of making autonomy as common in cars as air conditioning.

Like it or not, self-driving cars are just around the corner. Will you allow your car to take control of the drive? 


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  1. Very cool. I can’t wait. Level 4 where the car can navigate and change lanes is plenty. Would make long car trips so cool.

    Lena – your car today can be hacked and caused to crash.

  2. As long as they don’t drink alcohol instead of gasoline while driving, they will probably be safer that humans.

  3. I do not mind at all. Sooner or later, this will happen – it’s inevitable and part of the automotive evolution (if we could call it so). The only problem is that humans do not trust machines. Guess it is part of our nature – to be suspicious and fearful for our lives.
    What if somehow and for some reason the software get hacked?

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