Today, a majority of Americans are afraid of autonomous cars. That loss of control is genuinely worrying to most people — and with good cause. The technology still isn’t there, and more often than not what we hear about self-driving cars are crashes and other problems. In short, it still seems like a long way off.
But that’s changing whether we like it or not. Automakers are already well on the way to developing fully realized self-driving cars. In fact, a number of models on the road today can practically drive themselves. If you’ve bought a luxury car in the past year, chances are your car has some of these features standard. You just might not know how they work.
Before we go any further, here’s a quick primer on autonomous cars: They’re classified by levels, zero through 5. Zero and 1 are what most cars on the road are today. The driver is in control of everything, or there’s one thing controlled by the car (think cruise control). Level 2 is where most semi-autonomous cars land today. Drivers might not have to control the accelerator, brakes, or steering all the time, but they still need to be fully alert. Level 3 is when the car begins to take over most functions. Level 4 is when the car controls everything most of the time. Finally, Level 5 is the point where driver controls become irrelevant. The car is well and truly in charge.
Right now, we’re at the cusp of Level 3, and within a year or two we could be well beyond that. The cars of the future are here, and they’re self-driving. Here are 10 of the most advanced systems that will be available to drivers this year.
1. Tesla Model S
After pioneering EV technology, Tesla is the industry leader in autonomous tech. Introduced in 2014, Tesla’s autopilot is constantly being updated and uses cameras, radar, and acoustic sensors to cover 360 degrees around the car. Now in its second generation, autopilot-equipped Teslas can even change lanes by themselves. Although this is the most advanced system on the market, the company warns that drivers shouldn’t completely turn driving duties over to their cars yet. They might be close, but they aren’t fully autonomous yet.
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2. Mercedes S-Class
Tesla’s autopilot gets a lot of press, but Mercedes-Benz isn’t far behind. With its Intelligence Drive system, the Mercedes S-Class can use its adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and hands-free steering to drive itself for up to 12 seconds at a time. After that, the car sternly reminds the driver to put their hands back on the wheel with a red warning light and reminder tone.
Next: This car can park itself without anyone inside it.
3. BMW 7-Series
Not to be outdone by its chief rival, BMW has upped the ante on autonomous features inside and out. With the latest 7 Series, buyers can opt for the Active Driving Assistant Plus packages, which utilize an array of sensors for the car to practically drive itself, provided the driver has at least one hand on the wheel. Inside the 7 Series, a number of functions are controlled by BMW’s Gesture Control, meaning the days of you having to control the radio or climate control system with a button are over.
The 7 Series’ final party trick is a self-parking function. Controlled by the car’s key fob, BMW’s flagship sedan can pull into and out of a parking spot by itself, allowing you to park it in a tight space and not have to worry about putting any dings in those big doors.
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4. Audi A8
Audi’s slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik” translates to “Truth in Engineering.” With a tagline like that, it’s no surprise the German brand is a leader in self-driving technology. For 2018, its A8 flagship promises to be a near-autonomous powerhouse. Using a combination of LIDAR (think radar, with lasers), an array of cameras, and other sensors, Audi claims the A8 will be the world’s first Level 3 autonomous car, with the ability to drive itself at speeds up to 60 kilometers an hour.
Next: This automaker is testing autonomous cars on the streets right now.
5. Volvo S90
With the automotive world evolving at breakneck pace, Volvo is quickly positioning itself to be at the forefront. Whether that means betting big on electric power or self-driving cars, the Swedish-Chinese brand is quickly moving into a leadership role. This year, Volvo launched the Drive Me program in its hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. This is a pilot program that allows average citizens to use autonomous vehicles in everyday traffic.
Until the rest of the world catches up, Volvo’s XC90, S90, and V90 all feature the Intellisafe system, which offers steering, speed, and braking inputs while under the supervision of the driver.
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6. Genesis G80
By spinning the Genesis off into its own Lexus-like luxury brand, Hyundai is proving to the world it’s serious about luxury. As a result, the Genesis G80 is a true luxury flagship, and that means the latest driver aids are available. With emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, and a suite of safety sensors, the Genesis does just about everything it can to stay on the road, lightening the load for the driver.
Next: This car is set to make a huge leap forward in 2018.
7. Cadillac CT6
In its return to the world-class luxury stage, Cadillac’s CT6 is an impressive car. And in terms of the latest driving aids, it doesn’t disappoint. On top of one of the sharpest night vision systems on the market, the CT6 offers lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and an array of safety sensors. Come 2018, Cadillac will offer “Super Cruise,” a hands-free cruise control that controls steering, power, and braking at highway speeds. If successful, it could rocket the American automaker to the forefront of the autonomous movement.
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8. Lexus LS
Toyota isn’t afraid of making big changes, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the flagship Lexus LS sedan. New for 2018, the LS will feature a number of semi-autonomous features that will make driving that much easier. With Driver Emergency Stop Assist, the car will be able to stay in a lane and steer through curves or around objects. It will also have Lane Change Assist, which will allow the car to safely change lanes by itself. Despite this cutting-edge tech, Lexus is quick to point out these features don’t mean drivers can stop paying attention.
Next: This flagship offers a surprising amount of semi-autonomous tech.
9. Infiniti Q50S
Nissan’s luxury brand doesn’t come up often when we talk about autonomous cars, but it probably should. On top of the Q50 being a legitimate premium sport sedan, it comes loaded with an array of sensors that work to keep its passengers safe. Intelligent Cruise Control, automatic braking, and lane control augment a number of warning systems that minimize driver error as much as possible.
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10. Tesla Model 3
Until now, Tesla’s autopilot was an expensive add-on for the Model S and X. But that’s about to change this year, when Tesla’s $35,000 mass market car, the Model 3, enters production. Despite its relatively low entry price, the Model 3 will come standard with autopilot. Not only could this EV transform the way we drive, its semi-autonomous software might transform the way we don’t drive, too.