The BMW Group and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler have provided a timeline for when they expect to have the first cars with genuine self-driving capability on sale.
The two auto giants joined forces in the development of self-driving technologies in February and on Thursday they said they aim to have cars with up to SAE Level 4 self-driving capability on sale by 2024. Level 4 means a car can operate without a driver in select conditions and can safely stop should a driver fail to take back control outside of those conditions.
For BMW and Daimler, the initial select conditions will be highways and parking situations. Both automakers also plan to have a system able to handle urban areas and city centers, though talks in this area are ongoing.
The end goal remains Level 5 self-driving capability, which means a car would be able to handle all of the same conditions expected of a human driver. Such technology isn't expected to be available until the end of the next decade, at the earliest.
BMW and Daimler are developing a scalable self-driving system that can be fitted to multiple models from their respective brands. The system includes all the vital sensors, powerful computers, cloud data storage, and the software that controls it all. Once developed, BMW and Daimler are open to licensing the system to other firms.
The news comes just days after BMW and Daimler, along with numerous other firms in the self-driving car space, published a white paper entitled "Safety First for Automated Driving." It lays out a guide covering all relevant safety methods for the development, testing and validation of safe Level 3 and Level 4 self-driving cars.