Apple head honcho Tim Cook, meanwhile, has confirmed his company is also working on autonomous vehicles (AVs). Not one to be outdone, Elon Musk expects his first fully hands-free Tesla by 2018.
Mainstream carmakers are hot on their heels. Audi plans to introduce a self-driving car by 2020, while Ford wants an AV mobility services fleet operational by 2021.
Volkswagen aims to have its first self-driving cars on the market by 2019 and General Motors’ and Toyota’s models will be in action by 2020.
Next? Well, BMW is to launch the autonomous iNext in 2021.
Thankfully, for those of us who really do enjoy the driving part, there is technology that incorporates the best bits of autonomous driving yet still focuses on drivers and our driving experience.
Safety functions are foremost, which means we can concentrate on enjoying the drive with an extra level of tech helping to keep us safe.
The 2017 Mercedes E-Class, for example, forges ahead with its Blind Spot Assist, a system that emits a warning sound if we try to change lanes in a dangerous situation.
Several Audi models, meanwhile, come with night vision, a feature that uses thermal imaging to show if a person, animal or alien is nearby by displaying them on the dashboard – a much better way to avoid a close encounter on UK’s dark winter nights.
One feature we’ve already grown used to is automatic emergency braking, which red alerts an imminent collision. No response? The car automatically hits the brakes for us, thank you very much.
This year, as well, we’re seeing this system fitted in many more German and Japanese models as standard, making safer driving more widely available.
Driving a car not quite fun enough? Let’s pretend we’re fighter pilots with a next-generation heads-up display. With information directly in our line of vision, there’s no need to glance away from the skies, sorry the road, ahead.
BMW is leading the way here for 2017 with the market’s most comprehensive displays available across its model range.
The Bavarian’s best boffins are also developing an Augmented Reality system, showing not only info but also navigation signals ‘painted’ directly onto the road in front of the car.
It’s a sign of things to come – and could well be pointing the way to a future of drivers’ cars with all the best driverless functions.