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5 Companies Fighting To Bring The First Self-Driving Cars To Consumers

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    Experts say 2020 will mark the beginning of the driverless car era. From Google to Toyota, most major car manufacturers and tech companies are racing to be the first to put the world's first 100% autonomous vehicle on the road for consumers to purchase. 

    That's big news for commercial real estate. A recent report from real estate analytics firm RCLCO predicts autonomous vehicles will have a sweeping influence on all facets of the industry, starting with industrial (as autonomous vehicles are used for last-mile same-day delivery of products) and eventually encompassing retail, office and residential real estate by 2040.

    But before that happens, driverless cars need to get on the roads, and one of these five companies are likely to make that happen first.

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    1. Uber

    Launch Year: 2016

    The only one on the list where the launch year isn't an estimate, Uber rolled out a fleet of autonomous cars as part of it Pittsburgh pilot program in September. Alas, these cars are not yet perfect—they fail from time to time and still require both a safety driver and an engineer in the cockpit to make sure everything goes smoothly. But Uber hopes the humans up front can soon retire, and agreed to a $300M alliance with Volvo to further develop its driverless cars.

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    2. Tesla

    Estimated Launch Year: 2018

    While Elon Musk said Tesla expects to have its driverless technology ready by 2018, it's not likely to be on the roads until a bit later. That's because it's unlikely regulators will approve driverless cars for public use that quickly, according to Musk himself. While we don't know what these cars will cost, we can guess they won't be cheap—Tesla upped the price on its latest autopilot software from $2.5k to $3k in August, and that's just semi-autonomous.

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    3. Google

    Estimated Launch Year: 2020

    Google has never actually given a deadline for its driverless technology, but former head of the firm's self-driving car project Chris Urmson suggested last year that they would be ready by 2020. Like Tesla, Google anticipates getting past government regulations to be the largest hurdle. Yet unlike most others, Google is developing a car that is fully driverless and comes without brakes or a steering wheel. Most manufacturers plan to introduce increasingly semi-autonomous features over time.

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    4. Toyota

    Estimated Launch Year: 2020

    If Toyota's spending is any indication, this automaker is serious about getting driverless cars on the roads. The firm invested $1B into artificial intelligence and robotics through its new establishment, the Toyota Research Institute, which began work in January. The company is also using data on people's commutes to map routes for its fleet of futuristic vehicles.

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    5. BMW

    Estimated Launch Year: 2021

    Not to be forgotten, German luxury automaker BMW is developing its own breed of driverless cars that, according to BMW senior manager Maximilian Doemling, are planned to hit the Chinese market in 2021. The firm also says it will have an all-electric car with autonomous capabilities in 2021 and a fully autonomous electric car by 2025.