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Special Report: Cars that drive themselves

Automakers are always trying to make cars safer, more fuel efficient and fun to drive. But what about making them able to drive themselves?
Automakers are always trying to make cars safer, more fuel efficient and fun to drive. But what about making them able to drive themselves?

That's still years -- if not decades -- away for the average person. However, more and more features are popping up in today's cars that are steering us in that direction.

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi film -- but self-driving cars -- or autonomous vehicles -- are already on the road. Google has about a dozen.

So how do they work?

Ed Hellwig with Edmunds.com says, "A Google car can literally sense what's around the car and what kind of obstacles are coming up."
The average person won't be able to buy a self-driving model any time soon -- it would be too expensive, but that does not mean you can't try out some of the technology today.

"Adaptive cruise control can bring the car to a complete stop as well as start the car when traffic gets moving again, so you can literally be in stop and go traffic and not put your feet on the pedals at all," Hellwig explains.

Or there are lane departure warnings that auto correct when you veer outside the lines. Headlights that adapt to changing weather conditions. And new blind spot technology.

"It'll give you an audible or visual warning in your mirrors letting you know that a car is there," says Hellwig.

These options aren't just popping up in the luxury market. When Aimee Goodman went new car shopping she was sold when she realized she could get high tech for low price.

She says, "It became a significant factor in choosing a car."

The car she picked is priced in the mid 20's but offers blind spot assistance and…

"The windshield wipers will turn on as soon as it senses moisture on the windshield."

What could be wrong with that? Well, some complain all of this high tech help will put drivers at a disadvantage.

"It might make drivers a little too relaxed in terms of being vigilant about what's around them," Hellwig warns.

Goodman disagrees, saying she feels more confident.
"It doesn't replace a drivers attention to detail but it gives you an added level of security."

Some automakers are now working on creating cars that will take over the wheel in an emergency.

There are still many obstacles on the road to self-driving cars -- and many of the automatic features would require laws to be written to deal with things like who might be at fault if an accident happens.
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