Lat time we talked about the innovations that might make their way to our roads. Now let’s talk briefly about the future that’s already here. That’s right we’re talking about self-driving smart cars. Already fleets of these vehicles have been deployed in cities around the U.S. but how do they work? Is this going to be the next big change in auto industry?

We’ll admit, this isn’t fully science fiction. Self-driving cars have been experimented with since the 1920’s at least. The first real autonomous cars such as Carnegie Melon’s Navlab (a Chevrolet panel van with racks of computer equipment) came about in the 80’s but suffered from the technical limits of the day. It only reached a top speed of 20 mph. Hardly the type of vehicle we see now, but an important pioneer!

Nowadays we see highly programmed vehicles such as Tesla’s Model S, that features an autopilot system suitable for limited-access highways. While getting better and better, the systems are not finely tuned enough to detect pedestrians and cyclists. Google worked on a self-driving care of their won testing the proposed safety of driverless car. In the past few years, Google has reported that their tests cars did not have an accident due to the car’s software until February of 2016. The car attempted to maneuver and avoid sandbags blocking its path, but struck a bus.

So they’re getting made no matter what, but what are the implications? Studies have shown that a widespread adoption of driverless vehicles  would have a massive benefit to the populace, decreasing accidents by possibly 90%. What are the negatives then? Loss of jobs in industries relying on human drivers, and the adjacent industries (repair shops would see a lot less work if 90% of accidents didn’t occur.)

These cars really put “auto” in automobile.