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Surprising Science

Self-Driving Cars Have Arrived

The self-driving car is a technology of degrees. Adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping features will be released first. But when will you be able to sit back and relax?

What’s the Latest Development?

Self-driving cars are already here, though they are a technology of degrees. Features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping technology will be released first. Adaptive cruise control, which automatically adjusts your speed to the car in front of you, is already well-tested. Unlike the past, complex software is enabling more vehicle innovation than the invention of new hardware. It is thanks to software that Google’s self-driving hybrids have logged more than 140,000 miles on public roads.

What’s the Big Idea?

Despite the rapid advance of automated driving software, it may be a long time before you can enjoy a brandy in the back seat while your car whisks you away from the office. The more automated cars are, the more complex they become, requiring (trained) humans to oversee their operations. Future drivers will be like airplane pilots who, making use of autopilot, must still ensure that everything is working correctly. Market acceptance is another concern. Are we, as individuals, comfortable handing our safety over to a machine?

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