Auto Pilot on Cars: How Long Before Cars Drive Themselves?


We’ve probably all heard a story like this:

A friend has a friend who was on an RV trip. Her kids were sleeping in the back, her husband was conked out in the passenger seat. She had to go to the bathroom, so she put the RV on cruise control, unbuckled her seat belt and walked to the back, assuming the ol’ rig would safely navigate the highway ahead.

Of course the story ends badly for them. We, on the other hand, simply laugh at the stupidity of someone assuming cruise control can sense upcoming curves and traffic.

But how long until this scenario can safely happen? Technology is getting closer.

The 2010 Ford Taurus, for instance, has Adaptive Cruise Control, which uses radar to scan ahead for other vehicles and then changes speed to maintain a safe following distance.

The 2010 Toyota Prius has a Lane Keep Assist system that uses a camera to see lane markers and automatically keeps the car in its lane.

No single car, that I know of, has both of these features. But if it did, it would theoretically be able to safely cruise the highway while staying in its lane and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.

So the technology could be available for Mrs. RV Driver to safely take her rolling bathroom break then return to the wheel. But the thought of removing human interaction with the road through our vehicles is scary. Who knows though, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says over 2.3 million people were injured in car accidents last year.

There’s no indication that automakers intend on creating cars that drive all by themselves anytime soon, but maybe someday machines will prove to be much better drivers than humans.

Do you think cars will someday pilot themselves? Would you want one that does? I prefer the fun and freedom of controlling a car on my own!


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