Road to the driverless car

As computers and sensors become smaller and more sophisticated, cars are handling more of the tricky and boring work of driving a car. Someday, they could handle virtually all of it.

It knows what it's doing
It knows what it's doing
Even the simplest car today can be filled with electronic sensors that monitor everything the car does from one fraction of a second to the next. Some monitors check how far the wheels are moving when you turn while others see what the car itself is doing when the wheels turn - if there's a mismatch, that's a problem.

Sensors in the brakes time each spin of each of the car's wheels. If you hit the brakes and a wheel slows down more quickly than it should, that's a sign your brakes are locking up and the sensors trigger the anti-lock brakes to start pumping to regain traction.

Other sensors will lay dormant for years, probably the entire life of your car, waiting for an impact that may never come. But if that impact ever does come, they'll trigger the airbags.

There are monitors watching your behavior as well. They watch how far and how hard you press the gas and how far you're turning the wheel.


Spatial awareness