A Vehicle that Drives Itself? They May Be on the Roads Sooner than You Think

For many people, it’s hard to imagine a world where driverless cars roam the city streets and highways, navigating the roads without being directed by a human driver. This may be closer to reality, however, as many car manufacturers are beginning to create prototypes for autonomous cars.

Audi’s Chief Financial Officer, Axel Strotbeck, recently gave a detailed presentation on the intricacies of the company’s self-driving technology at Frankfurt School of Finance, suggesting that their cars could be equipped with semi-autonomous abilities as early as 2016.

Other carmakers also have self-driving cars in the works, including American car manufacture GM. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra announced last week that Super Cruise and car2car communication capabilities would be available in Cadillac models in 2016 as well. Super Cruise, like the technology used by Audi, has braking, accelerating and steering capabilities based on the surrounding environment. Car2car uses Wi-Fi and 3G signals from vehicles to tell cars where they are in proximity to other cars, helping to avoid automobile collisions.

While automakers around the world are working on integrating semi-autonomous features into their vehicles, Google has perhaps the most ambitious model underway — a fully functioning, self-driving car by the year 2024. Currently, Google cars can only drive on roads that are clearly, and with great detail, mapped out. They are still a long way off from differentiating objects in the road and picking up on the little details that human drivers are capable of.

“There will be self-driving cars within the next 60 years guaranteed,” says George Santangelo, Director of Marketing at Callari Auto Group, “but whether or not they are fully integrated into society is another story because of all the legalities regarding government restrictions. Self driving cars won’t work unless everyone has one.”

If automakers continue to make advances at the current rate, a highway full of self-driving vehicles starts to sound a little more realistic.

Regardless of when these fully autonomous vehicles come to fruition, there is no doubt that the technology seen in the automobile industry has come a long way. It was just a little over a century ago that people were predicting the transition from horse and buggy to a self-propelled, horseless vehicle. And look where we are now. Even in the last decade, new fuel efficient technology and electric cars have made great strides.

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