No. Well, not really. But many cars on the road have the ingredients necessary for computer-­controlled driving. Semiautonomous, or partially self-driving, tech has been available on cars for several years. Adaptive cruise control was first offered in the U.S. in the early 2000s on high-end models. The systems scan the road ahead using cameras, lasers, or radar, and can automatically apply the gas or brakes to maintain a set distance between your car and the car in front of you.

Automatic emergency braking systems are an extension of the same technology. When the system sensors determine a collision is imminent with the car directly in front of you, your car will automatically apply the brakes to attempt to bring you to a safe stop.



Those systems will take control of the accelerator and brakes, and lane-keeping assist (LKA) systems will give your steering wheel a gentle nudge. Available on luxury cars such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Infiniti Q50 down to the Honda Civic econobox, LKA generally uses camera-based “machine vision” to monitor the lines on the road. When it senses that the driver is drifting without using a turn signal, LKA automatically corrects the path of the car to keep it within a given lane.

The trickle-down effect to mainstream cars is already being realized, with Honda spokes­man Matt Sloustcher saying that it is likely that advanced driver-assistance systems will become standard equipment on Honda products “in the near future.”

For truly futuristic tech, there’s Tesla’s Summon self-­parking feature. That system allows the Model S sedan to drive itself to enter or exit a narrow parking space … without anyone in the car. It can travel up to 33 feet at a walking pace, and the operator must be within 10 feet of the vehicle, controlling it like a remote-­control car via the key fob or a smartphone app.

Not only are those features designed to offer safety and convenience, but many of them also form the building blocks to self-driving cars.

Jennifer Stockburger, who oversees safety testing at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, says, “Based on our experiences, we see a lot of safety potential with these systems, especially as they continue to be refined.”

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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