Self-driving cars have leaped from the movie screens and into reality in what feels like a very short time. It feels like only yesterday when we thought of autonomous vehicles as something that our great grandchildren might one day experience, and now commercially available self-driving cars have shown up in the market and have already taken to the streets, becoming a more and more common sight by the passing day.
The technology that drives these autonomous cars is a fascinating field of study. And though it is very much in its infancy, it has already surpassed human drivers in nearly every aspect of driving. Autonomous cars are much safer and, if working in conjunction with other autonomous vehicles on the road, have the potential for streamlining everyday traffic a hundred times over. But as self-driving cars grow and newer models boasting even better features come out every year, let’s take a look at which of the autonomous cars available today are the best of the best and give consumers the most bang for their buck.
Are All the Vehicles Listed Below Fully Autonomous?
While the technology is absolutely capable of driving a car by itself from one place to another following every traffic rule in the book, and has done so under countless successful tests, general distrust caused by the infancy of this technology has kept companies from being able to label their cars as fully autonomous. Furthermore, the technology definitely differs from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Some manufacturers have released cars that are by all means autonomous cars that can handle the driving from start to finish. Others have instead released cars that have a lot of helpful autonomous features that do a lot of the heavy lifting, but cannot be considered as fully realized self-driving vehicles. The list below is going to consist of a mixture of both types of cars, and as the technology improves and more big players jump into the field, we’re sure future lists like these will be heavily populated by fully autonomous vehicles.
The Tesla Model S
How could anyone possibly start a list about self-driving cars and not begin with a Tesla car. Tesla has taken the world by storm in recent years; their autopilot technology continues to improve every day and its eccentric CEO Elon Musk causes waves on Twitter almost every other week. The Tesla Model S – a five-seater sedan – is by no means a new car. It is one of the most popular offerings by Tesla, and a very popular model in the electric car world.
The Tesla Model S also features Tesla’s coveted autopilot feature. An autonomous driving mode that has improved so much in the last 5-7 years that it is now the primary selling point of the Model S. Simply put, this autopilot feature can do almost everything you could want it to; from navigating busy highways with ease to parking itself to actually driving through a parking lot towards you when you call it. And considering a lot of other cars on the market, the Model S isn’t that expensive either.
The Cadillac CT6
Cadillac’s cars have always been strikingly gorgeous luxury machines. And the Cadillac CT6 – an autonomous vehicle from Cadillac – is no exception. But beauty alone wouldn’t have made it a worthwhile contender of course, so what is it that sets the CT6 apart? We’d have to say that it’s the focus on safety that Cadillac has insisted on during the development of their autopiloting systems.
For example, though the Tesla Model S does require some sort of driver presence – mostly through keeping a hand on the bottom of the steering wheel – the CT6 utilizes an interior camera to monitor the driver’s alertness levels at all times. If the driver appears to be dozing off, the CT6 tries to get their attention via several visual and auditory cues. And if the driver fails to satisfactorily respond to these, the car turns on its hazard lights and slows to a stop in its lane. The autopiloting systems of the CT6 also differ in that they take a much more calculated and much slower approach to navigating highways and lanes.
The Mercedes Benz S Class
Expensive is one way to put Mercedes cars, and the Benz S Class is no exception. It’s one of the more expensive options on the market today, and though its autonomy package features some neat new ideas, it really doesn’t compare to the other two listed before. Nevertheless, the cool features the Mercedes Benz S Class provides in its Driver Assistance package are worth mentioning.
Named the Car-to-X system, this tech allows other cars on the road also equipped with it to communicate with each other to relay information of value. This tech is of course, modeled after a very popular idea for the future that envisions all cars on the roads as self-driving vehicles. The Driver Assistance package also comes with speed limit assists, lane assists, evasive maneuvering protocols, and a night vision mode that detects and tries to alert animals and pedestrians that are in the way.
The BMW 740i
The BMW 740i will cost you a bit less than the Mercedes Benz S Class, and also requires you to purchase a Driver Assistance package for semi-autonomous features. Though far from a fully realized self-driving car, the added features nevertheless paint a promising picture for the future. These features include warnings when steering out of lanes, pedestrian detection, and parking assistance amongst a few other less exciting ones.
The Infiniti QX50
Infiniti is the luxury vehicle division of popular car manufacturer Nissan, and so the Infiniti QX50 features a set of semi-autonomous features that expand and improve on a simpler set of features provided in some Nissan vehicles. Requiring the driver to keep a hand on the steering wheel to signal alertness the ProPilot Assist system – a helpful package Nissan brands as a tool for ease of use and to relieve stress during everyday driving – provides you with emergency braking systems, collision warning systems, pedestrian detection systems, and a degree of acceleration, braking, and lane steering guidance.
What the autonomous driving industry needs now is a giant push by all major players in the car manufacturing business. This increased form of competition would be the perfect catalyst to kickstart massive improvements in the self-driving vehicle department. Tesla has already proven that this technology is very easily accessible in our lifetimes, now all we need is a collective effort to realize this dream.
The automotive industry is improving every day, and we’re keeping an eye on it while keeping you informed of all the big changes and things to look forward to, as well as interesting historical accounts of facets of the modern automotive world. Be sure to give these articles a look next. Perhaps you can start with our post on Tesla Motors, or maybe our article on the different types of auto racing.