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Self-driving cars:
The state of
autonomous
vehicles

Author: Nick Reese

Considering advancements in technology, one could wonder if sometime in the future, it could be possible that we may no longer be required to use the steering wheel, brake pedal and rearview mirror. With the rise of self-driving vehicles, cars that largely “drive themselves” could do most of the work, turning your current ride into something only found at a classic car show.

While the transition to fully autonomous self-driving cars is still in the future, the technology that supports it is now available in various capacities. Safety systems, like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warnings and lane assistance, are already common features in many of today's new vehicles.

In fact, the self-driving car sector is growing at a rate of 16% each year, and the market expects to be worth a trillion dollars by 2025. While not fully autonomous—as the driver must stay alert and in control at the steering wheel—it's easy to imagine cars that could drive themselves in optimal conditions, such as cross-country trips on the interstate, if not semi-autonomously in most conditions.

The benefits of cars that drive themselves

The benefits of cars that drive themselves extend far beyond allowing drivers to focus on non-driving activities, like answering an email during rush hour. Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly reduce human-caused errors that can lead to accidents, such as changing lanes without looking, running through an intersection, or speeding. In addition, an autonomous vehicle can automatically find the fastest route to a destination, using real-time traffic data to adjust its route while helping to improve pedestrian safety and reducing carbon emissions.

Some futurists imagine a world with cars that drive themselves will have the same impact on the way we live that the transition from horses and wagons to automobiles had during the early 20th century. Car ownership may become passe as people prefer to order a car when they need it, which could bring both benefits (less land dedicated to parking) and drawbacks (more cars constantly on the road).

Self-driving cars: The roadblocks that lie ahead

Of course, there are several technical complexities that limit the ability of fully autonomous cars now, ranging from sensor capabilities to the algorithms required to know when to take emergency action.

Self-driving cars stand to benefit from 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Edge, each of which is available in parts of select cities, which can help enable near-real time communication and cooperation among vehicles that process and share massive amounts of data among traffic lights, emergency vehicles, manufacturer computers and countless other connections. In addition, regulatory frameworks, insurance requirements and public confidence will all have a role to play in the speed of adoption for autonomous vehicles.

While hands-free driving is still in the future, the early stages of self-driving technology are available just around the corner at your local auto dealer. When switching from a completely manual vehicle to a car with self-driving technology, remember: it's an assistant, not a chauffeur. Just as spellcheck can make you a better writer but can't write an email for you, today's autonomous vehicles can help you drive safer—but you're still the driver. Don't give up your steering wheel quite yet.

Learn more about how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband can help fast-track self-driving cars.