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The complete timeline to self-driving cars

Self-driving cars are coming. The question is when and how.


Self-driving cars are coming — sooner than you think. But when will we get there, and how will we get there?

Two terms for the transition have become standard in the auto industry. There's the "evolutionary" path to autonomous vehicles, where today's cars get self-driving features bit by bit — Tesla's autopilot feature, for example. And then there's the "revolutionary" path. That's where totally self-driving cars, like the ones Google is working on, start as test vehicles and become more mainstream as they can drive in more places.

There's an ongoing debate over which path is the safer one. But these paths will eventually converge.

Based on interviews with people from all over the autonomous technology scene, we've laid out a roadmap of what needs to happen — from both a technological perspective and a regulatory/legal one — before fully autonomous cars are widespread. Experts don't all agree on the exact sequence, so we've pulled together the most cohesive — yet still tentative — timeline to the future of transportation.

Thanks to the industry executives and experts we spoke to: Nauto founder Stefan Heck; Mobileye co-founder and CTO Professor Amnon Shashua; Driversiti founder and CEO Sascha Simon; Volvo senior technical leader for safety and driver support technologies Erik Coelingh; Mercedes head of autonomous driving in North America Axel Gern; NXP Semiconductors executive vice president Kurt Sievers; HNTB Corporation national practice leader for intelligent transportation systems Jim Barbaresso; MapR data scientist Onkar Ambekar and vice president of technology strategy Crystal Valentine; and Peloton co-founder and vice president of external affairs Steve Boyd and public policy lead Jonny Morris.

Photo credit: Tesla Motors, Peloton Technology, Johana Bhuiyan, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Tesla Motors.

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