Although there are many development efforts underway, the first Level 4 cars to come to the market, probably won’t be sold directly to consumers. Instead, they’ll be put into service with ride-hailing companies like Uber Technologies and Lyft: They’ll be automated taxis, limited (at least at first) to well-mapped cities.
There are a number of efforts underway to bring a Level 4 system to market in the near future. Among the most prominent:
- Delphi Automotive, Intel, and Intel subsidiary Mobileye have promised to make a Level 4 system available to automakers by the end of 2019. Vehicles using that system could come to market by 2021 or so.
- Those partners are involved in a separate-but-related effort with BMW AG, Magna International, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that aims to bring a self-driving technology “platform” to market by 2021.
- Swedish automaker Volvo Cars and auto industry supplier Autoliv have formed a joint venture that is also aiming to bring a system to market by 2021. It’ll be used by Volvo in its own cars, and marketed to other automakers by Autoliv.
- A slew of automakers and technology companies have their own efforts in progress, including Alphabet‘s Waymo subsidiary, GM, Tesla, Volkswagen AG, and Ford Motor Company.
Assuming there are no legal obstacles, the first cars with Level 4 systems could start to show up at dealerships within a couple of years, but it may take longer. Either way, it’s likely that you’ll be able to ride in one before you can buy one, by 2019 if not earlier. And it’s also likely that full-blown Level 5 vehicles are still many years away.