Jul 15, 2017 - Technology

The race to the finish for self-driving cars

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Companies around the globe are racing to be the first to officially step into the world of self-driving, fully-autonomous cars. The level of autonomy, however, will vary across the board. SAE International defined the self-driving levels from level 1 automation (cars perform minor tasks, but everything else is controlled by human drivers) to level 5 (fully autonomous vehicles.)

These 10 companies are the ones to watch for self-driving vehicles:

Tesla, end-of-year 2017: The tech giant's CEO Elon Musk is continuing to assure consumers that Tesla will have a coast-to-coast autopilot demo by the end of this year. At a Ted Talk in April, Musk said, "We should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey."

General Motors, 2018: Reuters reported in February that GM plans to have "thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets...beginning in 2018," in partnership with Lyft. Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation which was bought by GM last year, did not confirm this with Forbes in March, but said they plan to "deploy in a rideshare environment, and very quickly."

Hyundai, 2020: According to Forbes, the South Korean motor company is "slated to release highly autonomous vehicles by 2020...and fully autonomous vehicles by 2030," meaning level four and five automation.

Renault-Nissan Alliance, 2020: The partnered companies plan to "introduce vehicles that can navigate city intersections and heavy urban traffic without driver intervention" by 2020, according to a report from Fortune.

Toyota, 2020: Toyota "plans to be on its way to full autonomy starting in 2020," according to Business Insider. However, Toyota Research Institute CEO Gill Pratt said that while level five autonomy is "a wonderful, wonderful goal," the auto industry is far from reaching it.

Volvo, 2020: The Guardian reported in June that Volvo still plans to to have its first autonomous car by 2020, although currently they're experiencing problems testing their Large Animal Detection System — the system isn't detecting kangaroos.

Daimler, 2020-2021: The German manufacturer entered into a partnership with engineering company Bosch, and plans to bring both level four and level five autonomy vehicles "to urban roads by the beginning of the next decade."

BMW, 2021: Joining with Intel and Mobileye, BMW plans to bring "solutions for highly and fully automated driving into series production" by 2021, meaning level four and five automation.

Ford, 2021: Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields told CNBC in January that he hopes to have a level four vehicle by 2021. Ford announced in February a five-year plan for a $1 billion investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company founded by former Google and Uber veterans.

Honda, 2025: Honda plans to have a vehicle with level four automation on the market by 2025; a car with less automation is set to be available by 2020, according to a USA Today report.

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