Self-driving cars are coming, but it's still not possible to buy a totally autonomous vehicle for personal use yet. But many cars on the road now are getting smarter and smarter, and already include some self-driving features such as adaptive cruise control. Known as semi-autonomous cars, these vehicles don't eliminate the need for a driver, but do take some work off your hands. We take a look at some of the best you can buy today.
We've noted the price with self-driving systems included as a guideline, but the exact number may vary based on when and where you're looking. Where possible we mention the SAE level, which indicates just how self-driving the car is. If you're unsure, check our handy guide to SAE levels to check exactly what this means for autonomy.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the smartest luxury (SAE 2) offering from the auto giant that is prepared to both assist with your driving and look out for your safety. Thanks to improved Intelligent Drive systems, the camera and radar work together to scan the road ahead and can adjust speed based on map data. If for whatever reason the car senses that you aren't actively driving, the Active Emergency Stop Assist function can also bring the S-Class to a stop.
- Price: $97,250
Tesla Model S
Tesla's has been a big name in the tech world for a while now, and has made no bones about its goal of completely self-driving electric vehicles. The Model S is currently the best offering from Elon Musk's company, featuring a cutting-edge Enhanced Autopilot with four cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors to give the car 'awareness' its surroundings.
Thanks to these sensors the Model S can center itself within its lane, automatically change lanes (if you want it to) keep pace with traffic, and make autonomous transitions from one freeway to another, or from a freeway to surface streets. The car is also capable of parking itself. Tesla is already working on a Full Self-Driving Capability package for the Model S, to make it completely self-driving...but this feature still needs to be tested and regulated.
- Price: $82,000
BMW 5 Series
BMW 5 Series is a classic line that is only enhanced further after gaining autonomous driving features in the latest redesign. The AI can handle tricky parallel or perpendicular parking spots with the integrated Parking Assistance Package, all controlled via the key fob.
BMW also offers Traffic Jam Assist as part of the Driving Assistance Plus Package. This system scans lane markings plus the behavior of the car ahead to manage both steering and speed during heavy traffic with minimal driver input.
This luxury SUV can be equipped with one of the largest array of semi-autonomous driving features on the market for both assistance and safety. This includes steering support to help the car negotiate tight spaces and avoid collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, animals and other obstacles.
The 2019 XC60 offers Pilot Assist as part of its advanced smart package. This makes it one of the most comprehensively smart cars you can buy, as the system manages braking, steering, and acceleration at speeds up to 80 mph on well-marked roads. You still need to keep your hands on the wheel, however, as the car will detect if you've got hands-off, even when the semi-autonomous systems are in use.
You can already purchase the 2019 Audi A8, and the luxury sedan has many advanced features that score it an SAE level of 3. However, be aware that some of these smart features are yet to be approved in the US at the time of writing.
Nonetheless, this ultra-luxury sedan is one of the most futuristic when you take into account the features. It even lets you remove your hands from the steering wheel during long, slow (around 37mph) traffic jams. However, depending on where you are, local laws may not permit this.
The system uses a laser sensor, radar, ultrasonic, and cameras to navigate and can basically handle itself, but asks the driver to take over when conditions require human direction. Audi has also confirmed that it will roll out an auto-parking system that does not require the driver to actually be in the car when it enters or exits the garage.
Are you thinking of purchasing a new vehicle? Are self-driving functions an important consideration for you?