For more than a century, through countless trends, triumphs, and innovations, the central premise of the relationship between humans and cars has always remained the same: We are in the driver’s seat. Should self-driving vehicles someday replace the model we’ve always known, it would arguably be the most significant step forward in the automotive field since the advent of the internal combustion engine. As exciting, daunting, or unwelcome as that prospect might be for American drivers, one thing is certain: Breakthroughs in autonomous technology are opening up entirely new sets of questions and concerns when it comes to keeping consumers safe on the road.

This month, as we reveal our 10 top vehicle picks and our best and worst lists of new and used cars, we’re also bringing you up to speed on the state of self-driving vehicles. We’re breaking down the complex technology to let you know exactly where things stand, from astonishing innovations on the software side to sensors that can replicate and outperform the nuances of human sight. As autonomous features and self-driving cars continue to roll off the line and onto our streets, there is so much potential to look forward to. After all, here at CR we’re as excited as anyone about visionary products that exceed our expectations. But we’ll also be keeping our eyes on the road ahead, riding alongside you to ensure that, as new technologies shake up the auto market and stoke our imaginations, they always live up to the standards of safety and performance that consumers demand.

Editor's note: This article also appeared in the April 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.