It sounds suspiciously like science fiction, but driverless cars might be closer to reality than you think. According to a former R&D head at GM, we could see fully automated automobiles by the year 2020. Other estimates set that mark even closer to the present, and it's easy to see why. A number of organizations--including Google and various universities--already have working prototypes. Those driverless cars are still pretty rough around the edges, but we're already seeing a number of precursor technologies in production vehicles.
Anti-lock brakes, traction control systems, and electronic stability control are all technologies that driverless cars will leverage. Another interesting piece of precursor technology is adaptive cruise control. These systems have also been called autonomous cruise control because they operate without the need for any input from the driver. When that technology is married with lane assist, it's almost possible for a car to drive itself today.
According to a study performed by JD Power and Associates, most people aren't quite ready to hand over the steering wheel to a machine. About 80 percent of respondents said that they weren't interested in buying the technology if it was available. However, the flip side of that is about 20 percent of the driving population is interested in purchasing a driverless car.
Are you ready to kick back and relax while your car drives itself to work? I have to admit that I'm still a bit leery, but I do sort of wish my motor home had adaptive cruise control.
Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson