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After years of sunny optimism and big promises, automakers are beginning to realize just how difficult it is to make a market-ready, full self-driving car.

The CEO of Volkswagen's autonomous driving division recently admitted that Level 5 autonomy—that's full computer control of the vehicle with zero limitations—might actually never happen.

A quick primer on the now-industry-standard SAE International rules on how to discuss self-driving abilities: Level 0 is no automation whatsoever. Level 1 is partial assistance with certain aspects of driving, like lane keep assist or adaptive cruise control. Level 2 is a step up to systems that can take control of the vehicle in certain situations, like Tesla's Autopilot or Cadillac's Super Cruise, while still requiring the driver to pay attention.

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VW Executive Admits That Level 5 Autonomy May Be A Pipe Dream

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