While there's no timeline on a flying car, a self-driving car is certainly in your kids' future. At least, that's the direction that many automakers and a few other manufacturers are headed. How soon will these autonomous cars show up in the mainstream marketplace? At least one automaker is saying 2020!

The Visionaries

Automakers that are developing self-driving cars are a diverse bunch. Nissan, number six in world automotive sales, is promising a self-driving car in 2020. It is building on its electric Leaf model.  Tesla, the luxury leader in electric cars, is working on a similar timeline and claims to be 90 percent ready.  Audi recently became the first automaker to claim legal permission to drive autonomous cars in California, but it was followed closely by Mercedes. Regardless of the make of your vehicle, you may be surprised to learn that auto refinance rates are currently favorable.

Google's Cars

You've heard of Google glasses before? Basically a computer around your head. There's obvious a big difference between a set of Google glasses and a pair Oakleys. There difference is innovation. These were first seen as oddities with numerous antennae sticking up. The latest versions are two-seaters that seem reminiscent of the VW Beetle. The steering wheel and pedals are gone because the driver's only responsibility is to program the destination and push start. There is a stop button and an emergency stop button, but otherwise, the car will do everything that a driver usually does. The car uses Google maps, of course, to choose the route.

The Obstacles

In addition to the engineering obstacles, driverless cars must seek regulatory approval in all fifty states. Eventually, there may be a national policy, but until then, manufacturers must deal with uncertainty. Many traffic safety experts are particularly concerned about having both human drivers and driverless cars on the same roads. Then there are the driving enthusiasts who will hate to give up control.  Furthermore, many will find it unnerving to place survival issues solely in the hands of a machine. Ethicists are already debating whether or not a car could kill its passengers in a lesser-of-two-evils scenario. In an extreme example, the car's sensor system could decide whether to hit a crowd of innocent bystanders or drive off a cliff, killing its passengers.

The End of Accidents

Proponents of driverless cars quickly point out that extreme examples, such as the driving-off-the-cliff scenario, are truly one in a billion, and literally millions of lives can be saved. With only driverless cars, accidents would become a thing of the past. Your kids wouldn't have to worry about fender benders or fatal wrecks. The computer would eliminate accidents caused by a driver's inexperience, fatigue, recklessness, or drunkenness. Weather conditions would be less important because the car could use its radar to ‘see'. Advanced traction controls would ensure a safe speed for difficult conditions.

Today's Autonomy

Many cars are at level one or two on the scale created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Level one refers to electronic traction and braking controls, which are required on all new vehicles. Level two refers to crash avoidance systems such as radar-enabled blind spot assistance. These systems range from parking assistance to forward collision prevention. Most cars over $20K are offering these systems in some form, albeit for an extra two thousand or more.

Luxury cars, in particular, offer adaptive cruise control. The driver steers while the ACC accelerates or brakes, according to traffic conditions. At level three, the car is self-driven but the driver has the equipment needed to take over. The Google car would definitely be a level four because the driver has given up any real control.

Image Source | www.gizmag.com

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