Autonomous Cars and What They Mean for the Future of Driving

Autonomous Cars and What They Mean for the Future of Driving

For decades now, we’ve marveled at the sci-fi future of self-driving cars, which has almost always seemed a far ways off. Well, not so much anymore. With autonomous cars making headlines on a regular basis, it’s time we stop seeing this technology as science fiction and start believing it to be a reality. Here’s how far autonomous cars have come – and how long until you’ll be riding in one.

A Brief History of the Self-Driving Car

Believe it or not, but engineers have been working on self-driving technology for quite some time now. Even as far back as the 1920s, scientists were able to remotely control a car as they rode alongside it. Naturally, as the technology industry boomed in the mid-20th century, so did autonomous capabilities.

It wasn’t until the turn of the century, however, that driverless cars became mainstream, with virtually every vehicle manufacturer working on some kind of autonomous technology. Nowadays, we’re starting to see many manufacturers dip their toes into the autonomous waters, including in their new models features like parking assistants and lane awareness.

The Level 4 Goalpost

As driverless innovations take off, there needs to be a way to compare the capabilities of different autonomous systems. That’s where the SAE International classification system, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently adopted, comes in. You’ll likely be hearing a lot more of it as driverless cars begin to appear on the roads.

The standard works on a grading scale. Level 0 is the most basic, and one that we’re all familiar with – the driver is responsible for all operations in the car. Moving up the scale, you see more responsibilities handed over the self-driving system, capping off at Level 5: the car does everything, requiring no human input. For most drivers, though, a Level 4 car that is self-driving in all but dangerous conditions does the job well enough, and that’s what car manufacturers are aiming for.

Ford’s Autonomous Cars Coming in 2021

As one of the largest vehicle manufacturers in the world, you’d better believe that Ford has some interesting automation projects in the works. Ford has been working on autonomous technology for more than 10 years, and the company recently announced that it will have a Level 4 vehicle operating in 2021. The car will be used for ride sharing, whether that’s Uber, Lift, or another service Ford hasn’t announced yet.

Besides the short timeframe, perhaps the most amazing piece of information in their announcement is that these cars will come equipped without a steering wheel or pedals for gas and brakes. Before you become too concerned, realize that Ford will be testing its vehicles rigorously. In fact, the company has moved to triple its test fleet, making it the largest test fleet maintained by an auto manufacturer.

In short, we have some very interesting times ahead. Within a few years, you could be hailing a driverless car that’s powered by decades of Ford autonomous technology. Let that sink in for a second, and you’ll realize that the future isn’t very far off. It’ll be here very, very soon.

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