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Building tomorrow's car today: the self-driving vehicle nears the mainstream

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Wired's Tom Vanderbilt takes an in-depth look at the development of self-driving cars, and the potential they have to change our basic notions of driving and car ownership.

Mercedes developmental '6-D' steroscopic sensor system
Mercedes developmental '6-D' steroscopic sensor system

The notion of a self-driving car has been steadily foregrounded since Google's autonomous vehicles were noted by the New York Times in 2010. Wired's Tom Vanderbilt takes an extensive look at the technology as a logical extension of the features we already enjoy — and the potential it has to change the notions of driving and car ownership. Multiple manufacturers including BMW, Audi, and Toyota are all working on their own versions of computer-controlled driving systems, with Alan Taub, vice president of research and development for General Motors, predicting the technology will be a standard feature by 2020. While it seems futuristic on the surface, we already live in a world where computer-assisted blind spot warnings, cruise control, and automated crash preparedness are standard features, making a car that drives itself more of a technological small step than a giant leap. Less clear, however, are the legal ramifications and the human aspect: could ceding control alter our perception of driving as an expression of freedom and empowerment, and turn it into an act of simple utilitarian need instead?