Self-driving cars are the new electric cars, in the sense that all automakers seem to be at each other’s throats over who can get the technology out first. When electric and hybrid cars first started to become more mainstream, it’s all every automaker talked about. Now, that new technology is the self-driving car.

Admittedly, BMW is somewhat behind the curve in the world of autonomous technology. Tesla is currently the media darling for its Autopilot system that claims to be the most advanced system on the market and, in many ways, it is. However, no one had yet to develop a fully-functioning Level-5 self-driving car.

The levels of autonomy in cars go from 1-5 and increase in their abilities to drive themselves without human interaction. So Level-1 is basically nothing and Level-5 is full autonomy, with the ability to navigate any street or situation without driver input. In fact, in concept cars with Level-5 ability, automakers have an option to put the steering wheel back into the dashboard, because you don’t need it. Crazy stuff. While that sort of Level-5 self-driving ability seems far off, BMW claims that it will be possible by 2021.

“We are on the way to deliver a car in 2021 with level 3, 4 and 5,” said Elmar Frickenstein, BMW’s Senior Vice President for Autonomous Driving.

The idea is the by 2021, BMW will have different levels of autonomy for different situations and different customers. It will likely be based on the options list. So if a customer lives in an area with a long and dull work commute, maybe they want Level-5 autonomy and will pay for it. However, other customers might not want it, so they can just get the Level-3.

To do so, BMW has partnered with Intel and Mobileye, two tech companies that are highly in advanced in the developing extreme processing power and image recognition software, respectively. With their help, it’s certainly possible that BMW could develop such advanced tech by 2021.

[Source: Reuters]