There’s no question that self-driving cars are coming – the real debate at this point is who will get there first.
We rounded up a whopping 20 companies – from traditional automakers to Silicon Valley start-ups – who are working to build a self-driving car by 2021. Naturally, when we will see a fully driverless car hinges just as much on the regulatory environment as advancements in self-driving tech.
But companies are plowing ahead with getting their self-driving cars ready by as early as 2021. Scroll down to see all the players in the self-driving car space:
Tesla made a big move this year to meet its goal of having a fully self-driving car ready by 2018.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in late October that cars currently in production – which includes the Model S, Model X, and future Model 3 – will be built with new hardware that will enable them to be fully driverless, pending regulatory approval and further software validation.
It’s a smart move on Musk’s part – equip the cars with the necessary technology now so they are ready once self-driving cars gain federal approval. Musk said a Tesla will drive itself from Los Angeles to New York City as a demonstration of the technology by the end of 2017.
Musk has been committed to having a fully self-driving car ready by 2018.
Uber released its autonomous cars in Pittsburgh as part of a pilot program in September.
Uber released Ford Fusion cars modified with the company’s self-driving tech as part of its Pittsburgh pilot in September. A select few Uber users can hail the cars as part of the program. But the cars still have a safety driver as well as an engineer up front because they do fail from time to time.
Uber and Volvo have also agreed to a $300 million alliance to develop driverless cars. Uber has made a play for the self-driving car space by poaching staff from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department.
Uber also acquired self-driving truck start-up Otto in August. The self-driving truck completed a 120-mile route in October.
Google has never given a formal deadline, but has suggested it’s working on having the technology ready by 2020.
Chris Urmson, former head of Google’s self-driving car project, suggested during a March 2015 TED Talk that he and his team were working on a 2020 deadline for its self-driving car. But Google’s self-driving car program has suffered from executive departures, and Google co-founder Larry Page reportedly said he was heartbroken by its slow pace, according to Bloomberg.
Google is taking a different approach from other automakers in that it isn’t looking to roll out semi-autonomous features overtime, but produce a fully driverless car without a brake or steering wheel. Bloomberg also reported that some Google teammakers have pushed for partial automation, but Page is set on releasing a fully driverless car.
The cars have driven over 2.3 million miles in autonomous mode as of November.
Toyota is looking to have a driverless car ready to go by 2020.
The automaker is serious about having its driverless cars ready by 2020. Last November, Toyota invested $1 billion in artificial intelligence and robotics to help make that goal a reality. The automaker is also mapping routes to aid its driverless car efforts.
BMW will test 40 of its self-driving cars in Munich next year.
BMW said the testing in Munich is part of its effort to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft who are planning to use self-driving cars for their ride-hailing services.
The German automaker is also planning to release self-driving vehicles in China in 2021.
BMW is also committed to releasing an all-electric car with the autonomous capabilities in late 2021 as part of its Project iNext. By 2025, the Project iNext car will be fully autonomous. Autocar reported that the electric car being built under Project iNext is an SUV part of its i-series line.
BMW has showed off some of its self-driving tech in its all-electric i3 concept, which can park itself and come back to pick you up when you’re ready. The BMW 7 series also already comes with semi-autonomous features like lane keeping assist and side collision protection.
Volvo is aiming to make its cars “deathproof” by 2020 by rolling out semi-autonomous features in its cars, eventually working up to fully driverless ones.
In addition to the Uber deal in Pittsburgh, Volvo also plans to roll out an “advanced autonomous driving experiment” in China, where 100 volunteers will be able to test driverless Volvo XC90s on public roads. The experiment is part of its DriveMe program that will also test 100 driverless Volvos in Gothenburg, Sweden and London in 2017.
By 2020, Volvo plans to be well on its way to having a fully autonomous car.
Nissan is committed to have a commercially viable autonomous car on the roads by 2020.
Nissan wrote on their website that it has “achieved the technological advancements necessary to begin to make this fiction a reality” by that date.
The automaker is releasing ProPILOT, a self-driving feature that lets cars drive autonomously on highways, in August in Japan. But the system will eventually roll out in Europe, China, and the US. Nissan will continue to add driverless capabilities to ProPILOT until it has a fully self-driving car in 2020.
Ford is aiming to have its fully autonomous car ready in four to five years.
Ford will roll out a fleet of self-driving cars as part of a ride-sharing or -hailing service by 2021. Like Google’s autonomous cars, Ford’s cars won’t come with a steering wheel, brake or gas pedal.
“What we have said is, we may not be the first, but when we do, it will be true to our brand, which means accessibility,” Ford CEO Mark Fields recently told Business Insider in March. “We want to make sure it’s available to everyone, and not just folks who can afford luxury cars.”
Ford is testing its self-driving cars in Europe in 2017, increasing its current fleet of 30 cars to 100.
Ford and Chinese company Baidu recently invested $150 million in Velodyne, a manufacturer of a Lidar system that allows self-driving cars to “see” the world around them.
General Motors has partnered with Lyft to build electric, fully driverless cars that will be available to just about anyone.
- Cruise Automation
GM announced its $500 million investment in Lyft at the Consumer Electronics Show in January to build a network of on-demand, driverless cars.
GM hasn’t said exactly when the ride-sharing service will be available, but told Business Insider that it’s “coming much faster than people anticipate.”
GM also bought self-driving car startup Cruise Automation in March for $1 billion to bolster its autonomous car efforts.
Daimler, the maker of the Mercedes-Benz, is aiming to have its driverless trucks ready by 2020.
In October, A Mercedes-Benz big-rig made history by driving itself on a public road, marking the first time a big-rig drove semi-autonomously on a highway. Daimler executives have said the system powering the autonomous truck, dubbed Highway Pilot, may be ready for real-world application by 2020.
The Audi A7 drove 550 miles by itself in 2015, but there’s no word about when it’s hitting the market.
Although a date hasn’t been set yet, Audi is not a company to sleep on. The automaker was the first company to receive an autonomous driving permit in Nevada in 2012 and it later received its autonomous driving permit for California in 2014.
Baidu, a Beijing-based search company, is aiming to have a commercial model of its driverless car ready by 2018.
Baidu let members of the public take a ride in its self-driving cars in China for a week in November. Baidu is aiming to produce a limited number of self-driving cars for a shared, public shuttle service in China in 2018.
The company said it will begin mass producing the cars in 2021.
Baidu has been cleared to test its self-driving cars in California and currently has employees working on the project in its Sunnyvale office.
Honda is aiming to produce cars that are completely driverless on highways by 2020.
- Reuters/Noah Berger
Honda has been testing its autonomous cars at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in San Francisco since March 2015.
The automaker is developing forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist that has rolled out in its 2016 Acura and Civic cars this year, Reuters reported. Rolling out semi-autonomous features in its cars is part of Honda’s plan to achieve full autonomy on highways by 2020.
Hyundai is aiming to have driverless features in its cars by 2020, but won’t have a fully autonomous car ready until 2030.
- Reuters/Steve Marcus
Hyundai is aiming to have autonomous features ready by 2020, but its premium vehicles like the Genesis already have driverless features like automatic braking, Reuters reported.
The automaker is aiming to have a fully self-driving car ready by 2030, Kwon Moon-sik, Hyundai Motor Group vice chairman, said at an event in Nov. 2015.
Auto supplier Bosch has been working on driverless technology for several years with the ultimate goal of releasing fully driverless software within the decade.
Kay Stepper, the head of Bosch’s automated driving department, told Business Insider that Bosch plans to release new components, like next-generation radar sensors, that will support full autonomy within the next 10 years.
Bosch is not planning to build an actual self-driving vehicle, Stepper said.
Bosch has been testing its driverless technology on public freeways in Germany, the US, and Japan since 2013. Above is a photo of a Tesla Model S modified with Bosch’s self-driving hardware.
PSA Groupe, the second largest car manufacturer in Europe, is aiming to have fully driverless cars ready by 2020.
- YouTube/ PSA Peugeot Citroën
Four of the automaker’s self-driving cars traveled the 360 miles between Paris and Bordeaux, France in October. There was no driver involved for the entirety of the trip, and the cars were able to change lanes and adjust their speeds successfully.
Start-up Faraday Future is working on an electric car and is developing autonomous technology for it.
- Rob Ludacer
Electric car start-up Faraday Future unveiled its concept car, pictured above, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and described it as completely autonomous.
Faraday Future will show off the car at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Heavily camouflaged Faraday Future prototypes have been seen driving around Los Angeles. The car appears to be a midsize, crossover SUV.
Faraday Future’s cars are expected to go into production by 2020.
LeEco, a Chinese tech company, is also working on an autonomous, electric car.
LeEco is working on a car dubbed the LeSEE, pictured above, that’s fully autonomous. The steering wheel can fold into the dashboard for when it’s driving autonomously. It’s also meant to be a fleet vehicle that you can summon to drive you somewhere in advance.
LeEco raised a little over $1 billion in funding to develop its electric car in September. That news came a few weeks after LeEco invested $1.8 billion to build an electric-car plant in eastern China with eventual annual production capacity of 400,000 cars.
But LeEco is facing a shortage of cash, which CEO Jia Yueting refers to as a “big company disease.”
There’s no word yet on when we’ll see the LeSEE. It’s worth noting that LeEco is a strategic partner of Faraday Future.
Apple has reportedly ditched its efforts to build a self-driving car, instead turning its focus to autonomous software.
- ConceptsiPhone via YouTube
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Alex Webb reported Monday that Apple is prioritizing working on the software for a driverless car rather than building an actual autonomous car from scratch.
Hundreds of members of the 1,000-person car team, internally dubbed Project Titan, have been reassigned, let go, or left on their own volition, according to the Bloomberg report.
Apple executives had imagined building a self-driving, electric car that could recognize the driver by his or her fingerprint. Another plan involved starting with a partially autonomous car with a steering wheel as well as brake and gas pedals, with the intention of shifting to something fully driverless later on.
Didi Chuxing, Uber’s former fierce rival in China, is also building a self-driving car, but details on the project are scarce.
- Reuters/Jason Lee
Didi founder and CEO Cheng Wei said in a Bloomberg article that he was hiring data scientists in Silicon Valley to build a self-driving car.
Cheng also said he’s in talks with Gansha Wu, the former director of Intel Labs who also founded UiSee Technology, a Beijing-based self-driving car company, about the project.
Didi Chuxing bought Uber China in a $35 billion deal over the summer.