Nissan is aiming to have at least two self-driving cars on the market by 2020. Ford (NYSE:F), BMW (OTC:BAMXF), and other automakers could do likewise, if they wish. But while the technology will certainly be ready by then, problem is all the rules and regulations that must be worked out before fully autonomous vehicles hit the road.
Luckily, we can enjoy a lot of the benefits of the self-driving revolution starting right now. And you're going to like what you see.
In the video below I'll show you some features that are already available on the market, as well as some that will be showing up in the next few years -- including 360-degree collision avoidance, and the ability to get out of your car and let it park itself.
Every year I go to CES in Las Vegas to see the future of technology. Recently, automobiles -- with all their sensors, blazing computer chips, and connectivity -- have become a huge part of the world's largest electronics show.
Take BMW as an example. This year it showed off some exciting technology it hopes will hit the market in the next five years or so -- including an impressive 360-degree collision avoidance system.
BMW representative: What we have set up here by BMW research is a prototype system that prevents collisions up to speeds of 15 miles per hour, and with a set of obstacles. I can try now to go full throttle toward this block here, and the system will brake for me. My foot is all the way down, I floored the pedal, and the system took away my pedal commands and then also added some additional braking This not only works in the front, but in the rear, so I can go full throttle backwards. And as you can see, pretty much the same.
From an extremely safe feature to an extremely handy one... how about the ability to use your smartwatch as a valet to park your car for you, and bring it back to you when you're ready to leave.
Yves Pilat, BMW Development Engineer: That means that you're driving to the parking lot and you can drop off your car, push a trigger on the smartwatch, and the car will completely park itself autonomously. As soon as the car reaches the parking spot it will send you a message on your smartwatch and then you know on which parking spot the car is. And as soon as you're ready to go again, or coming back from your appointment, you just hit again a button on the smartwatch, push the trigger, and the car will drive up to you completely autonomously.
Luckily, we don't have to wait a few years for some amazing autonomous features. The same BMW i3 -- like a lot of models these days -- has sensors that warn when something's getting too close...
Rex Moore: Oh look at this. We have a warning system going off, because someone's too close to us I guess.
Ford already has active park assist, Lane-Keeping System, Adaptive Cruise Control, and other semi-autonomous technology. Almost every automaker offers similar features.
And, coming soon, even more uses for the sensors surrounding your car. How about having these sensors automatically detect open parking spaces, and transmitting that information to other vehicles looking for spaces including you? Yup, that's a thing now.
Dave McCreadie, Ford Motor Co.: So the big idea behind this project is that we wanted to say, "Hey, what can Ford do (knowing that we have this technology on our vehicles) as a way to almost enrichen that data environment a little bit more?" So the same apps can still be used, but now this is another data feed into those apps so that you, as a prospective parker, can now have a richer data environment to dip into in order to find a spot for your car.
So as a solo driver, you might not be able to nap on your morning commute for a few more years. But in the meantime, you'll still be able to enjoy the fruits of technology more than you ever have in your lifetime.
Reporting from CES in Las Vegas, I'm Motley Fool analyst Rex Moore.