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Self-Driving Cars

The Pikes Peak Autonomous Audi TTS

Courtesy of Audi of America

The idea of a self-driving car isn't a new idea. Many TV shows and movies have had the idea and there are already cars on the road that can park themselves. But a truly self-driving car means exactly that, one that can drive itself, and they're probably closer to being a reality than you might think.

In California and Nevada, Google engineers have already tested self-driving cars on more than 200,000 miles (321,869 kilometers) of public highways and roads [source: Thrun]. Google's cars not only record images of the road, but their computerized maps view road signs, find alternative routes and see traffic lights before they're even visible to a person. By using lasers, radars and cameras, the cars can analyze and process information about their surroundings faster than a human can.

If self-driving cars do make it to mass production, we might have a little more time on our hands. Americans spend an average of 100 hours sitting in traffic every year [source: Cowen]. Cars that drive themselves would most likely have the option to engage in platooning, where multiple cars drive very close to each and act as one unit. Some people believe platooning would decrease highway accidents because the cars would be communicating and reacting to each other simultaneously, without the on-going distractions that drivers face.

In some of Google's tests, the cars learned the details of a road by driving on it several times, and when it was time to drive itself, it was able to identify when there were pedestrians crossing and stopped to let them pass by. Self-driving cars could make transportation safer for all of us by eliminating the cause of 95 percent of today's accidents: human error [source: Truong].

Although self-driving cars may seem far off, GM has already done its own testing and some people believe that you'll see some sort of self-driving car in showrooms in the next decade.

Go on to the next page to learn how we may be viewing all of our car's data in the near future.

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