The future is upon us, a fact made more evident everyday, as new technologies continue to transform from theoretical musings to tangible realities. Despite the rather disappointing revelation that George Jetson-esque flying cars don't exist yet, childhood dreams will soon be redeemed by the recent advent, and near-future consumer release, of autonomous vehicles. First it was cruise-control, then self-parking, now the fabled self-driving cars are making waves in the auto industry, as many manufacturers are gearing up to release their models in automaton variants.
It all started with Google's foray into driverless vehicles, and subsequent state to state lobbying of law makers to allow these robot operated cars, dubbed "Google Chauffer," on the road. As of 2012, 4 states have legally authorized autonomous vehicles on the streets; Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan. Though Google is still developing a commercially available version of said vehicle, with no expected release date in sight, a slew of well-respected car manufacturers have been rigorously testing their own, similar, technologies with much success.
First off, the autonomous Mercedes Benz S-Class, whose prototype was unveiled late last year, was able to complete a 60 mile journey without assistance, between the German towns of Mannheim, and Pforzheim. The car uses a series of cameras, radar, and light sensors to navigate around obstacles and gauge the flow of traffic, with the hope of preventing driver-error related accidents through calculated, formulaic driving managed through software in the car's computer. But the German auto giants aren't the only competitor on the playing field; GM, Testla, Nissan, Volvo, Audi, and Toyota all have self-driving vehicle technologies in the works as well.
As these manufacturers have begun to release information surrounding the technological advances in the self-driving car arena, the public attitude towards driverless cars has evolved from considerably dubious, to curious and eager. Though there are still quite a few concerns from consumers and industry leaders - mostly regarding insuring an autonomous vehicle, and who becomes financially responsible for accidents if/when they do happen - travelers around the world are paying attention.
Much of the future is unclear, as it should be, but one thing is for certain - self-driving, autonomous, driverless, or whatever-you-want-to-call-them, cars will be populating the streets within the next few years. Imagine cruising through Italy, seat fully reclined as you drink San Pellegrino, and blast Daft Punk's "Robot Rock" from your speakers... your autonomous car driving you to and from your destination. The future looks good.