BMW has partnered with computer-chip powerhouse Intel and camera-software company Mobileye to bring a fully-autonomous car to public roads by 2021.

Dubbed the iNext, BMW’s future autonomous car promises to supplant the 7-series as the automaker’s flagship vehicle in its lineup. The car will be highly digitized with a smattering of sensors and cameras on exterior and interior surfaces; a powerful on-board ‘brain,’ will make real-time decisions based on information gathered from the vehicle’s sensors and cameras.

While BMW has the capability to go it alone on such an endeavour, its alliance with Intel and Mobileye is strategic, giving the company a timeline advantage over key competitors in the race to build the world’s first publicly available autonomous car.

According to BMW, the iNext will not only serve as an elegant technological flagship–it will also be the foundation for the company’s autonomous driving strategy and serve as a kick-off point to produce fleets of fully-autonomous vehicles for automated ride-sharing use.

Achieving what BMW refers to as “driver off” mobility – where no human occupant is present in the vehicle – is the ultimate goal.

The ability to move fleets of vehicles around a city without a human driver or human oversight profoundly alters the possibilities for ride-sharing programs—in the future you may be able to, for example, order a ride-share taxi from your mobile phone, and have it arrive – driverless – at your doorstep.

“Today marks an important milestone for the automotive industry as we enter a world of new mobility,” said professor Amnon Shashua, Mobileye co-founder, chairman, and CTO.

“Together with BMW Group and Intel, Mobileye is laying the groundwork for the technology of future mobility that enables fully autonomous driving to become a reality within the next few years.”

With autonomous cars expected within five years and mass proliferation of ride-sharing programs in the wings, the shape of our daily commute is on-course for a dramatic and futuristic change.

(BMW Group)