Google, GM may let cars drive themselves by 2020

Joke in Google/NASCAR self-driving race car April Fool is that only the racing is a joke

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It also includes user settings that would follow different driving styles – all right-lane, under-the-speed-limit for cautious types, passing-lane residency for more aggressive drivers and, presumably, random lane changes, honking, tailgating and other road-rage emulations to help driverless cars blend in with other cars in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and other pits of commuter peril.

In March Google demonstrated the potential of its autonomous vehicles by letting a man who is 95 percent blind drive a specially modified Prius with a revolving camera on the roof to watch where they were going, a computer in the trunk to steer, with Google engineers and a local cop on board to take over if things got messy.

In May GM will debut a Cadillac XTS that has motion sensors, radar and cameras that give the onboard computer a 360-degree view of its surroundings so it can help avoid a crash, according to ABCNews.

The Driver Assistance Package in the 2013 Cadillac XTS will be strictly a warning system at first. GM has announced plans to have its first semi-autonomous cars on the road by 2015 and fully autonomous vehicles rolling by 2020.

Only in Nevada is it legal for autonomous vehicles to drive themselves on the road in the United States, however.

Lots of luxury and, increasingly, non-luxury cars come with crash-warning sensors and self-parking systems that rely on the same AI technology that pilots autonomous vehicles.

Ford, Mercedes, BMW and Audi are also working on software designed to assist drivers in heavy traffic, but have not announced plans as aggressive as GM's or as elaborately promoted as Google's.

The April Fool's joke in the Google announcement may actually be that only the part about racing at NASCAR was faked.

The rest, apparently, is not only on the drawing boards, but putting in lots of miles at test tracks and will soon be snarling traffic even further on a commuter roadway near you.

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