Mercedes-Benz has driven a self-driving car 62 miles on the public streets of Germany, while Google has logged thousands of miles stateside with their technology. Even so, not many people would feel safe jumping into a self-driving car right now and hitting the streets. The technology is still unproven in the public consciousness – a seemingly fanciful idea whose time is still years and years. However, a quick look around the CES floor will prove that self-driving cars aren’t nearly as futuristic as you might expect.
The rise of self-driving cars isn’t going to happen all at once. It takes generations of incremental evolutions, many of which are already happening today. Starting with Toyota as far back as 2003, cars have been equipped with parking assistance, allowing them to automatically guide themselves into parking spaces by recognizing their surroundings. Many new cars are equipped with proximity sensors which detect objects and send alerts to the driver to avoid accidents. Several companies here, including GM, Audi, and BMW, have experimented with – and even implemented – V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication technology, in which cars send signals which allow other cars to avoid collisions and moderate traffic.
In isolation, these advancements aren’t often labelled as “self-driving,” but as cars are able to park by themselves, sense the road, and communicate with other cars, they are gradually making consumers comfortable with ceding control to the car itself. Ultimately, by the time that cars guide our entire drive from start to finish, the entire experience will feel natural because each element of the drive will be telegraphed by incremental and increasingly sophisticated evolutions.