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BMW to make autonomous driving a reality in five years

With the help of Intel and Mobileye, BMW says it will make its cars highly automated, then capable of self-driving by 2021.

BMW 5-series automated driving
BMW demonstrates highly-automated driving in a 5-series sedan.

At CES 2017, BMW announced it will add a self-driving mode to its cars by 2021, partnering with Intel and computer vision company Mobileye to make the technology work. Initial testing will involve a fleet of 40 cars fitted with sensors and computers to handle driving decisions.

BMW board member Klaus Frohlich said BMW will implement highly-automated driving capabilities in new models, leading up to fully self-driving vehicles in the target year.

Mobileye brings expertise in computer vision, processing camera images to recognize objects in a car's surrounding, while Intel has recently boosted its automotive efforts, creating a new group to supply automakers with automation expertise.

A red hot area of research in the automotive industry, self-driving cars show potential to greatly reduce or eliminate the tens of thousands of deaths that occur on US roads every year. This technology may also reduce traffic jams, a major fuel and time waster in US cities. Along with automakers like BMW, equipment suppliers, startups and big tech companies are all developing self-driving car technology.

Frolich said that the BMW of the future will incorporate an Ease mode, where the car drives itself, and an Boost mode, where the driver takes over.

As part of this self-driving effort, Mobileye and Intel joined the Here consortium, co-founded by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Here supplies maps and crowd-sourced driving information to enable self-driving cars.

During CES, BMW will be demonstrating its highly automated driving technology in a 5-series sedan.