Partially self-driving 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee may drive itself to the trailhead

June 1, 2018

A Level 2 self-driving Jeep Grand Cherokee will be the first in a slew of autonomous cars headed for its U.S. showrooms, the automaker announced Friday.

In a wide-ranging presentation for media and investors Jeep's parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, outlined its strategy for new cars, new technology, and new powertrains.

Jeep figures heavily into FCA's future plans, including self-driving cars. The first to hit showrooms will arrive in 2020, Jeep said. That may be the 2020 or 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee that will be capable of "Level 2+" autonomous driving. Jeep said the Grand Cherokees would be able to brake, accelerate, steer, and change lanes without driver input, although driver attention will still be necessary.

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When it arrives in 2020, the self-driving Jeep Grand Cherokee may lag competitors, but FCA said it would start laying the groundwork for those systems soon. A suite of connectivity and telematics features will begin arriving to FCA cars next year, which the automaker will use to connect the bevy of systems needed for self-driving cars. At least 30 separate sensors, including cameras, lidar, and radar systems are needed for Level 4 or higher self-driving cars, according to FCA.

That kind of array won't be cheap. FCA estimated that hardware for those early cars could cost as much as $30,000, but would eventually go down to around $10,000. Even at that cost, FCA said it expects the systems to be profitable for companies such as Uber or Lyft; employing human drivers accounts for up to 70 percent ride-sharing services' costs, the automaker said. It's not clear if FCA plans to sell Level 4 or Level 5 cars to the public.

FCA said it would follow the Level 2 self-driving Jeep in 2020 with Level 3 self-driving cars in 2021 and some kind of "fully autonomous cars" in 2023. Those cars would act roughly similar to the "Level 2+" self-driving cars, but would stop on their own instead of ceding control back to the driver in emergencies.

MUST READ: Read our 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee full review

Officials outlined a broad plan for self-driving cars that included partnerships with Waymo, BMW, and Aptiv to bring to market different capabilities.

This week, FCA announced it would sell Waymo up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica vans to test its self-driving hardware and launch self-driving taxi services around the U.S. An FCA-Waymo vehicle may eventually end up in showrooms, but FCA didn't announce when that could happen.

The partnership with Aptiv will bear fruit sooner. Aptiv's systems will figure into the 2020 cars and beyond, although FCA said it's partnership with BMW would be focused heavily in Level 3 cars.

We'll update this story as more information becomes available.

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