Just how smart are they? 5 fascinating self-driving car videos

Picture yourself climbing into your car for your daily commute to work.

But instead of battling traffic, you kick back and use a smartphone to catch up on the latest news or check your email – or even take a nap.

The self-driving car has become a reality and may become widely available in the not-too-distant future. According to IEEE, a technology trade group, self-driving cars could comprise 75 percent of all cars on the road by 2040.

When that happens, driverless cars have the potential to allow senior citizens and the disabled to continue driving after medical conditions make their use of conventional cars unsafe.

With self-driving cars, people who have consumed too much alcohol will be able to get home without risking injury to themselves or others.

Google has been a strong proponent of the driverless car, launching a project  to help prevent car accidents, give drivers more free time behind the wheel, and reduce pollution.  

Other manufacturers such as Honda, Audi and Mercedes-Benz are developing their own driverless vehicles.

Here are five videos of self-driving cars that show what the future may hold.

1. Blind CEO finds new freedom with self-driving car

Steve Mahan, who has lost 95 percent of his vision, was one of the first users of Google's self-driving car. This video shows him as he runs errands without the need to touch the steering wheel. Mahan, who is the CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center in San Jose, Calif., drove along a programmed route. He says the self-driving car has changed his life.

Self-driving fact: In September 2012, Google co-founder Sergey Brin predicted that self-driving cars would be widely available within five years. In May 2014, he said he still hoped to make that deadline.

2.  Sensors allow Honda's self-driving car to anticipate turns

The self-driving Acura TLX features sensors that can be used to detect objects that are hundreds of feet in front of the car. They enable it to anticipate the direction of the highway and slow down to safely take you through curves.

Self-driving fact: Self-driving cars have been featured for many years in popular entertainment. Tom Cruise's character used one in the 2002 film "Minority Report." In the 1980s TV show "Knight Rider," David Hasselhoff's character fought crime with the help of Kitt, an artificially intelligent car.

3.  Test drive Audi's self-driving vehicle

When this car is traveling less than 40 mph, the driver can press a button to allow it to begin driving itself. This car's sensors monitor other vehicles and detect lane markings on the highway. It reacts to movement in surrounding lanes and reads speed limit signs.

Self-driving car fact: The first driverless car was built by Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Laboratory in 1977. It had a top speed of 20 mph.

4. Riding in driverless cars may take some getting used to


Volvo's self-driving car: 'It's a slightly odd... by Guardian

Volvo has taken its self-driving prototype from the test track to public roads near its headquarters in Sweden. In this video, the Guardian's Sam Wollaston describes riding in the car as a "slightly odd feeling" -- and sounds slightly nervous.

Self-driving fact: In the mid-2000s, a Pentagon research group offered prizes to driverless cars that performed the best at navigation. In the first such challenge, none of the cars completed the test course.

5.  A living room on wheels? Check out the Rinspeed XchangE

A concept car from Switzerland, the Rinspeed is a prototype luxury car that allows its onboard computer to do the driving while passengers hold meetings or just take it easy and enjoy the trip.

Surreally, in the video, you can see two passengers facing each other while drinking espresso and laughing as the car drives smoothly onward. 

Self-driving car fact: In April 2014, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Google's self-driving Lexus RX450H SUV has the ability to recognize stop signs rather than relying on maps to locate them.

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