Cars that drive you home on their own. Cars that connect to other cars and also to the stoplight in front of you. Cars that are much safer and reduce accidents.
This is what we can expect in the next few years as AI and machine learning hit the road (literally), helping us drive smarter and even offering to take over the driving for us entirely. A radical next step from what modern cars can already do in terms of automated driving, these vehicles will let you take a nap on the highway. They will also sense when there is a crash ahead and re-route you in real time. One can even tell which coffee shops you like best and take you there.
Ford is getting much more serious about self-driving cars. The Ford Fusion prototype has two LIDAR sensors for scanning the road (they are located near the windshield) and can drive autonomously. The computer for processing all of the environmental variables is in the trunk. Ford expects its self-driving tech to debut by 2021.
Toyota once announced it would not make fully autonomous cars, but the Concept-i is a departure from that plan. The big change? There’s an AI in the car called Yui that can sense your emotions. If the car determines that you are sad, it can drive for you and, say, take you to meet up with friends at a pizza place.
What separates this Hyundai from many other self-driving cars is that it is going to go into production soon — we even tested one at CES 2017. The Ioniq is a new model that will come in three versions (electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid) this year, but the autonomous tech is also far enough along that we expect it to be an option in the Ioniq within the next few years.
Another car that is actually in production, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the same vehicle Waymo (the offshoot of Google) uses for its self-driving technology. The prototype has extra LIDAR sensors, radars, and cameras to assist with automated driving. There are no set plans to make these prototypes available for production yet.
The Smart Ready to Drop program is a sign of things to come. Using an app, you can order any product that DHL ships (and that fits in the car), then have the driver place the packages in the rear hatch when you are not around. For now, it is in a limited trial in Germany.
Nissan went far-future with a concept at CES 2017. This vehicle does not need traffic lights or stop signs, can operate fully autonomously with or without a driver, and can see obstructions, pedestrians, and other cars in real time and respond as needed.
This self-driving car is intended for ride-sharing. Someday, you could send a car like this to pick up a friend, or the babysitter. It also has an AI on board that can monitor where you drive and what you like to do, even remembering which coffee shops you like best.