The Future of Driverless Cars

Last Updated: July 31, 2023 |
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Millions of commuters sit in traffic day after day. Backups form due to congestion in the roadways, driver error, and accidents. But someday, cars may drive themselves and even communicate with each other, so the traffic we sit in today may soon be just a bad memory.

Today’s defensive drivers may soon be simply relaxing passengers as autonomous vehicles take over the driving tasks. And you may never have to take a defensive driving class for a ticket again. It sounds like science fiction, but this is real technology under development today that may be widespread in as soon as 10 years.

The future of driverless cars means smarter, more efficient driving with fewer accidents. As cars park themselves, avoid accidents, and wirelessly communicate, drivers can safely relax behind the wheel. Much of the technology behind driverless cars is already on the road today as vehicles with automatic braking, blind spot sensors, and other safety features are developed.

Read on to learn about some of the self-driving cars on the market and under development, autonomous driving features, and what’s coming next for driverless vehicles.

Cars That Drive Themselves

The Potential Behind Self Driving Cars

Autonomous vehicles open up a number of possibilities. Safer, less congested roadways, opportunities to work while commuting, even a solution for drunk driving are all part of what self-driving cars may soon offer. Some of the positive potentials behind autonomous vehicles include:

How Self Driving Cars Work

One of the biggest questions behind self-driving cars is how they actually drive with little to no help from a human driver. How do they know where it’s safe to drive, how fast to go, when to brake and turn?

In most autonomous vehicles, sensors and cameras are integral to driving. With the sensors, they will detect objects, including other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. If an object is detected up ahead, the vehicle knows to slow down or stop to keep a safe distance. Sensors also let the car know when a lane change is safe, as they can detect other vehicles to the left and right.

Some of the autonomous vehicles being tested today use what’s called lidar scanners, which create a visual representation of the environment that the car’s computer understands. This environment is used to determine where the road and lanes are, as well as other vehicles and obstacles in the way.

More advanced vehicles using updated infrastructure will actually be able to communicate with the road. They’ll get electronic signals from traffic lights, indications to stop at stop signs, updates about any incidents up ahead, and even communicate with each other to avoid collisions. They will also have a built-in GPS system that shows the vehicle to follow driving directions — and even choose the safest, most efficient way to go.

Autonomous Car Features on the Road Today

To see hints at how self-driving cars work, you only need to look at some of the better-equipped cars on the road today. Many luxury vehicles and well-equipped family cars have features that hint at autonomous driving or even take the vehicle into semi-autonomous driving. These semi-autonomous features are already seeing widespread use on the roadways today:

Roadblocks for Self Driving Cars

Self-driving cars aren’t quite a reality just yet. For one, the technology isn’t fully there. But other roadblocks are keeping autonomous cars from widespread use today. These issues are questions autonomous vehicles will have to tackle before we can expect a fleet of driverless cars on the roads:

When Will We Have Autonomous Cars?

Predictions for worldwide use of driverless cars range from 2017 to 2025. Of course, Google’s driverless cars are already driving themselves today. Tesla’s semi-autonomous vehicles are on the road as well, many just a software update away from becoming fully autonomous.

It’s not clear exactly when we can expect to see our streets full of driverless vehicles, but it does look like the next 10 years will be a turning point for personal vehicle transportation and autonomy. As new vehicles with autonomous and semi-autonomous features are released, we will see a slow phase-out of regular, human-driven vehicles.