The goal of producing an autonomous vehicle is arguably on the agenda of every major automaker in the world. Based on a number of media reports regarding the next wave of safety measures, it appears that several automakers are on their way to reaching their goals. In many 2014 models, more cars will feature crash avoidance and lane integrity systems, which could be precursors to autonomous vehicles.
For instance, vehicles such as the BMW 5-Series, the Mercedes-Benz S500 and the Lexus RX350 include many of the technologies that researchers hope will be included in an autonomous vehicle. These include radar sensors that can detect objects that are too close to the vehicle (or can sense an impending collision), small video cameras that show the area immediately around the vehicle, as well as GPS maps that help the driver (or the vehicle, for that matter) understand their position.
With more vehicles incorporating these technologies, it could be seen that autonomous cars are just around the corner; but the reality is, they are not. According to a report by the MIT Technology Review, driverless cars are not expected to be on the road anytime soon. There are several factors that could impede this progress, including costs (many of the technologies would push the price of a car out of the range of the normal buying public) and the unpredictable effects that weather would have on how the technologies view urban environments (i.e. snow-covered streets).
In the meantime, partially autonomous features (such as self-parking mechanisms) may be unique selling points, but completely driverless cars may only remain as science fiction.
Source: TechnologyReview.com, “Driverless cars are further away than you think,” Will Knight, October 22, 2013