Automakers have introduced futuristic features such as parking assist, lane assist, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control. Tesla already offers an Autopilot feature that can take (limited) autonomous control of the vehicle, although Autopilot still requires the driver to be alert at all times, and to be in a position to take control of the vehicle should it require human input. Tesla and other Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Apple can be credited with forcing the long-established auto giants to push technological and regulatory boundaries in developing automated solutions for their vehicles.
The German trio of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi along with technology companies--namely Google, Apple and Chinese Internet giant Baidu--have committed to introduce fully autonomous cars on roads by 2020. It seems everyone is vying for the top spot in the autonomous technology category. Although technology giants Microsoft and Intel are not building their own vehicles, they are looking to assist in developing software and hardware solutions for autonomous industry. Microsoft has teamed up with BMW to develop advanced navigation systems and Intel has been rumoured to be developing purpose-built autonomous vehicle processors.
Existing driverless vehicles utilize GPS and sensors such as radar, lidar and cameras to determine a vehicle’s position on the road and "visualize" obstacles in real-time. Driverless vehicles in the near future will receive additional electronic inputs from other vehicles and infrastructure. Just imagine a red light broadcasting to an autonomous vehicle that it’s red, instead of requiring a camera on the vehicle to interpret the visual data.
Once autonomous vehicles no longer require drivers, it's not only passengers that will benefit from added free time while in the vehicle. Drivers can send autonomous vehicles on otherwise time consuming errands, like dropping their kids off at school or picking up visiting family members from the airport.
Not since the Ford Model T first hit the road in 1908 has there been such an incredible shift in the automotive industry. You're about to witness history!