Google, Nissan Debut Cars; Major Auto Makers Working On Projects

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Self-driving cars may sound like science fiction to some people, but in reality they have already arrived and their innovative features are sending the cars of today speeding towards a high-tech future.

Auto makers are currently testing self-driving or “autonomous cars.” Nissan debuted a vehicle last week that is designed to follow smartphone commands, and Google already has a dozen on the road.

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The cars use GPS maps, radar, and built-in sensors to maneuver through traffic and sense obstacles that lie in their path, according to experts.

“A Google car can literally sense what’s happening around the car and what kind of obstacles are coming up,” Ed Hellwig of told CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois.

Mercedes, Ford, GM, Volkswagen, and Audi are all developing self-driving vehicle projects, and the technology is not very far-fetched. Many cars can already self park, automatically start and stop, and feature cruise control.

“Adaptive cruise control can bring the car to a complete stop as well as start the car once 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 explained.

Some of the new advances are designed to improve safety. If a driver swerves in traffic the car sends out an alert.

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“It’ll give you an audible or visual warning in your mirrors, letting you know that a car is there,” Hellwig said.

Head lights that adapt to changes in weather, and blind spot technology are making driving safer, but these changes aren’t limited to luxury vehicles.

Aimee Goodman drives a mid-priced car that offers blind spot assistance and windshield wipers that sense moisture. Goodman said that the technology makes her feel more confident behind the wheel. Others feel that tech-dependent drivers could pose a risk on the road.

“It might make drivers a little too relaxed in terms of being vigilant about what’s around them,” Hellwig cautioned.

Safety experts estimate that self-driving vehicles could reduce accidents by 80 percent.

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