The race is on to bring fully autonomous vehicles to the road. A recent race in Las Vegas featured Indy-style cars, but there were no racecar drivers. The fully autonomous vehicles make their own decisions, like when to pass.
Automakers are trying to bring the technology on display on the track to the road. "We're definitely finally getting closer to having self-driving cars," says Tim Stevens, editor in chief of CNET's Roadshow.
Stevens says many new cars have level 2 autonomous functions, including lane-keeping assist. "When you step up to level 3, that's when things start to get interesting," he says.
Last year Honda introduced a vehicle that changes lanes on its own, and in a traffic jam the driver can take their eyes off the road.
GM's Super Cruise lets drivers go hands-free in certain conditions. Next year, the company will release Ultra Cruise which promises hands-free driving in 95% of conditions.
Waymo is taking the technology a step further. The company is now offering cab rides in Phoenix. But the cars cannot operate alone in inclement weather that may interfere with sensors.
Full autonomy is just a concept at this point. Automakers envision a future where vehicles won't need any human involvement, but Stevens says first it will require better sensors. "That gives these cars the ability to detect with millimetric precision every obstacle that's around them and find a safe path through it."
Companies are now testing advanced 3D Lidar systems with that capability, racing to bring self-driving cars a step closer to reality.
Mercedes and Volvo are expected to release vehicles with level 3 technology later this year.