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TIMELINE

The past, present, and future of self-driving cars 

Cars will eventually drive themselves. But it’s probably going to take longer than we hope.  

Realists in the industry, such as Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, have dumped some cold water on the expectations that truly autonomous vehicles are just around the corner. “All carmakers are aiming to achieve Level 5 autonomy [the highest level, in which cars can navigate under all conditions with no human intervention], ” he said. “I need to make it perfectly clear….none of us in the automobile or IT industries are close to achieving true Level 5 autonomy. We are not even close.”

Perhaps no technology has existed this long in the public imagination without actually existing in the real world, notes Marcel Maron, a PhD candidate in city planning at the University of California, Berkeley. “There wasn’t a 20-year lead up to the iPhone,” he says.

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