A Google driverless car works its away around a test co... A Google driverless car works its away around a test course. (Flickr).
In a few short decades, new automotive technology might eliminate the need for drivers to wait at red lights. It may eliminate the need for steering wheels. It may even eliminate the need for drivers to carry licenses.

Those are some of the bold predictions coming from members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which predicts that 3 of 4 cars on the road will be driverless by 2040.

"Over the next 28 years, use of more automated technologies will spark a snowball effect of acceptance and driverless vehicles will dominate the road," says Jeffrey Miller, an IEEE member and associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

He notes that such technologies are already seeping into the mainstream market, including parallel parking assist, automatic braking and even the seemingly antiquated cruise control.

Handing over the entire scope of driving duties is another matter, but already, programs such as Google's driverless car have completed 300,000 miles of accident-free driving and California, Nevada and Florida have passed laws that allow autonomous vehicles on their roads.

Other predictions about the future of driverless cars from the IEEE:
  • No drivers' licenses will be needed. Since people of all ages and abilities can use these vehicles, no specific driver certifications are needed. "People do not need a license to sit on a train or bus," said Dr. Azim Eskandarian, director of the Center For Intelligent Systems Research. " ... So there will not be any special requirements for drivers or occupants to use the vehicle as a form of transportation."

  • Car-sharing programs will become more mainstream. They'll take you to your destination and then be readied for another occupant. "Since cars today are parked for more than 90 percent of their lifetime, shred car services will promote more continuous movement, garner more efficient operation and use less gas," said Dr. Alberto Broggi, IEEE senior member.

  • Infrastructure won't be prohibitive. Existing roads can already handle the advent of autonomous vehicles. No major overhaul is needed. Broggi directed a project in 2010 that led two driverless cars to complete an 8,000-mile trip between Italy and Shanghai.

  • Say farewell to red lights and stop signs. Once cars are driverless, intersections will be equipped with sensors, cameras and radar that controls traffic flow. That will not only end collisions, but promote fuel-efficient flow of traffic.

  • High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes might be replaced by Driverless Car lanes, which would not only promote autonomous travel, but help driverless cars travel both more safely and faster, reaching speeds of perhaps 100 mph by 2040.


The year 2040 seems like a long way away. Here's a look at some of the new and advanced vehicles on sale right now.

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