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Car Tech: Driverless Cars May Not be Ready Yet, but Many of Their Features Already in Use

The technology that will allow cars to be autonomous isn’t quite road ready yet. But much of it is already on the road.

David Royse | LedeTree

Some of the technology that is allowing engineers to design autonomous cars that will soon be in general use is already more and more in use in cars we are driving already.

If you have been tooling around in a car more than a few years old, you might be surprised at some of the tech that’s available in cars right now.

From cars that have the ability to parallel park themselves, to collision-avoidance systems, to heads-up displays, when it comes to cars, well, it’s truly not your father’s Oldsmobile.

If you have bought a car recently, and if you are in the particular income stratus that has allowed you to spend some money on some extra features, you may not find this to be “news.”

But for most of us, whether we drive a car that’s a few years old, or when we bought our last car we bought the standard model, some of the tech that’s available right now in cars currently on the road may surprise.

You’ve probably seen some of the TV commercials featuring cars that can parallel park themselves. But if you haven’t car-shopped lately, you may not realize that this is starting to go beyond being a feature just available on luxury vehicles. In fact, it’s been more than a decade since Lexus introduced auto-parking.

This past year, several major car makers offered self-steering parking, though in most cases it’s not a feature that comes standard. And while the feature is mostly available on more expensive car models, among those that could be bought in 2017 with self-parking were some very regular cars like the Ford Focus, the Toyota Prius, and the VW Golf.

The auto industry calls these near self-driving technologies “Level 1” or “Level 2” capabilities – the basics on a list that goes all the way to full autonomous driving at Level 6. Level 1 tech also includes a more sophisticated version of one of the oldest assistive driving technologies: adaptive cruise control.

Looking at some of the new 2018 and 2019 cars, it’s clear that technologies that can help drivers with that task are becoming very popular.

At this week’s Chicago Auto Show, several of the cars feature tech that just a few years ago seemed space-age.

Among the most interesting technologies now showing up in regular cars, thanks to the research into the “future” self-driving car, is systems that try to make driving safer not by making crashing safer (like airbags and seat belts) but by trying to make crashing unlikely. That’s collision avoidance. Some of these systems merely warn you, the driver, that you’re about to hit something, so you can avoid it. Some cars are starting to have automatic braking systems that stop for you before hitting something.

Forward collision warning systems are actually pretty basic now, using cameras, radar, and sometimes LIDAR to detect things that are getting closer and closer, as if you might be about to hit them. The system then gives the driver a warning so he or she can brake.

Forward Collision Warning is now standard on some models, including the Mazda 3, the 2019 Subaru Ascent and most models of Toyota.

Some cars that have collision warning as options include the Chevy Bolt, Volt and Cruze,  the Hyundai Santa Fe, and pretty much every Kia.

Automatic Braking, or AEB, goes a step further – actually trying to help you stop the car if you’re about to hit something, at least slowing it down if it can’t stop the car, thus lessening the impact.

Under a 2016 agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 20 major car makers have promised to make automatic braking standard in all new vehicles by 2022.

U.S. News and World Report has been good enough to compile a list of cars that currently have the feature.


READ More Automotive Stories from LEDETREE


About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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