Automobiles are getting smarter, and it's possible that cars may be able to handle most of the driving duties in the not-too-distant future. Are motorists ready to enter that reality? The U.S. Department of Transportation is curious to find out, and tests are about to get underway to find out how much faith motorists can comfortably put in the hands of an autonomous vehicle.

Researchers for the DOT are heading out to the racetrack – not to post fast lap times, but to gauge driver and passenger reactions to safety equipment designed to intervene when necessary. The custom vehicles contain equipment that allows them to "talk" to each other. This relay of data lets one car know what the other is doing. If one car sees that it's on a collision course with another, it can initiate a panic stop and avoid an accident. The DOT wants to find out how motorists react in situations where their cars jump in to save the day.

Testing will take place in cities around the country. The results of this research will be shared with Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. While testing in the States gets moving, automakers are conducting further testing elsewhere in the world. Automated cars are set to take over the streets of Frankfurt, while other driverless vehicles tackle racetracks in Belgium.

Our own Damon Lavrinc recently got a taste of the automated action when he sampled the BMW Track Trainer.

Are you ready for a world of automated vehicles? Sound off in Comments.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      EXP Jawa
      • 4 Years Ago
      "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't allow you to drive..."
      • 4 Years Ago
      Automated vehicles will have their place in city and high congestion areas. I don't have a problem letting a grid take control going through a large city and traffic if it means I save 30 to 40 minutes off my commute. But in general driving I want control.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Eh... On one hand it is much much safer, but I just feel like humans should always have the final control of the car. I liked how in the movie iRobot, there was a manual mode and an automatic mode. Personally fully automatic mode should be reserved for mass transit systems only. We could use existing freeway systems and modify them so that you must be in fully automatic mode before entering. Freeways would actually be useful with dramatically fewer accidents and therefore fewer slow downs.
      • 4 Years Ago
      lol i cant wait till the first autonomous vehicle is jacked by some smart car thiefs. i mean how are you supposed to stop someone from breaking a window, pulling the ebrake and taking the rims and other parts. befor the cops show up, causes im sure they will have lojack and car monitering on the cars when they do really hit the road
      Stephen Smalling
      • 4 Years Ago
      As long as I can disable it, along with Traction control, stability control, and preferably ABS, it sounds like a great idea to me.
      Huy Bui
      • 4 Years Ago
      i freak out when traction control/ stability control intervenes...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Autonomous vehicles sooner rather than later please. Mandated on all public roads. I know everyone thinks they are the best driver in the world, but you're not. The weakest link in the car will ALWAYS be the meatbag behind the wheel. A system of autonomous vehicle all communicating with one another will allow for amazing advances in efficiency and safety. Imagine a convoy of 40 cars all tailgating within one foot of one another travelling at 120 MPH. Imagine trying out new positions of the Kama Sutra with your carpool buddy on your way to work. Will computers mess up and cause a accidents? Sure! The bugs will need to be worked out. It's inevitable. But I bet that will be MUCH less frequent than the ridiculous, avoidable accident cause by human meatbags.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You'll love it until the day comes when it gets reprogrammed to hunt down Sarah Connor.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Boy oh boy, I just can't wait till they legislate ALL risk out of living!
      • 4 Years Ago
      The future looks bleak for people who love to drive for the sake of it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      should these people not be trying to save money on their budgets instead of dopey stuff like this?
      Rocky Carr
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ready? I've been ready for YEARS! Maybe not for rural driving, but for major highways and cities, I'd like nothing better than to be able to get in my car, tell it where I want to go, and have it take me there while I take a nap, read, whatever.
        Just Stuff
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Rocky Carr
        And when it malfunctions while you're taking your nap.....
      Krishan Mistry
      • 4 Years Ago
      If the car suddenly brakes by itself, my natural reaction would be to slam the throttle to keep the same speed, before realizing that it is doing that to stop me from rear ending the car in front, which I would have seen anyways and slowed for. I dont mind electronics telling me about stuff, but if they are going to take some control, if they arent working with me 100%, Id rather they either get the **** off or if it is a boring road and Im sleepy, drive me to the nearest Tim Hortons. Drivers will need instruction or instinctively they will fight whatever the computers are trying to do because it may seem like loss of control. Traction and stability control are ok, because if you are really pushing it, you disable them, and if you want to be safe, keep them on and dont drive like a lunatic. ABS probably felt wierd to drivers initially because the pedal pulses and you have to slam the brakes for it to work best. But having a car brake or veer when IT decides to do so, while you are still in control, is going to mess everyone up.
    • Load More Comments