A Level 4 self-driving car can drive on its own in set conditions but requires a human to take over outside of the set conditions, or else it will pull over safely. A Level 5 car can drive on its own in all conditions expected of a human so can operate with no one onboard.
In a presentation on Tuesday outlining BMW Group's Q1 2019 financial results, CEO Harald Krueger said the pilot fleet will consist of 500 iNext SUVs and that not only is the technology being looked at but also the necessary changes to the regulatory environment, including liability laws.
Prototype for BMW iNext electric SUV due in 2021
The first iNexts in the fleet will hit the road in 2021. Locations for the fleet haven't been announced but will likely be in places where BMW is already testing the technology, like around its Munich headquarters as well as test sites in the United States, Israel and China.
The BMW Group has partnered with fellow German automaker Daimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, to develop self-driving technology and doesn't expect to have a Level 4 or 5 capable system on sale until 2024 at the earliest, Krueger said.
This doesn't mean there won't be any self-driving systems available from BMW before then. The version of the iNext to be sold to the public in 2021 will come with Level 3 self-driving capability. Level 3 cars can drive on their own in very limited situations and require a human to be ready to take over after several seconds of warning. This is in contrast to Level 2 systems currently available, such as Tesla's Autopilot, which require a human to take over at a moment's notice.
BMW Vision iNext concept
The Vision iNext concept rolled out in 2018 hints at the design of the iNext SUV, which will be a battery-electric model with a range of over 400 miles.
Krueger also reiterated the BMW Group's plan to further integrate its mobility services with those of Daimler, which was announced in February. The two have established a joint-venture company to oversee all of their respective mobility services, such as car sharing and location sharing for parking and charging spots.
The long-term goal is to develop a single, all-encompassing service to handle transport needs, including the integration of public transport services and, when the technology is ready, the services of fleets of fully self-driving electric cars.