The day when you can sit back and let your car drive itself gets closer every year

By Caitlyn Callihan

AAA World Article

The day when you can sit back and let your car drive itself gets closer every year. Many top automobile companies are working quickly to implement technology and develop self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles.

AAA believes the key to helping consumers feel more comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles is bridging the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in today’s cars.

“Having the opportunity to interact with partially or fully automated vehicle technology will help remove some of the mystery for consumers and open the door for greater acceptance,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations.

Here are some of the top features of autonomous vehicles that you can already get in today’s cars.

Many new vehicles have an emergency stop feature that supports the driver through audio and visual alerts, and can even gently (or forcefully) decelerate or stop without driver interaction.

Some vehicles automatically perform lane changes into an unoccupied, adjacent lane. This can be done when a driver requests it, such as activating the turn signal, or based on surrounding traffic.

Some systems manage braking, steering, and acceleration speeds. Certain vehicles can transition you from one freeway to another, or from a freeway to surface streets. Others even sense your hands on the steering wheel, ensuring you still remain attentive while in the car. By using sensors, cameras, and radars, many vehicles can scan the road ahead and adjust your speed based on map and traffic data. You can even find vehicles with steering support to help navigate tight spaces and avoid collisions with other vehicles, people, or animals.

Many vehicles have parking assistance that helps you parallel or perpendicular park with little to no driver interaction.

While many new vehicles have front and back facing cameras to assist with parking and navigation, others have a small camera inside the vehicle to monitor the driver’s attention level, and the vehicle can even take over if needed. 

Ultrasonic sensors in vehicles can help it understand its surroundings. They form precise maps with hyper-accurate location data, and can assist in lane and street changes and driving in inclement weather.