Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous or driverless vehicles, are automobiles capable of sensing their environment and operating without human involvement. Instead, these vehicles integrate sensors, computer vision, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to navigate roadways and avoid hazards without a human driver behind the steering wheel.

Leading autonomous vehicle developers equip cars with cameras, radar, GPS and LIDAR remote sensing systems to see and map surroundings in all directions. Powerful onboard computers running advanced AI algorithms then process this environmental data to perceive pedestrians, read street signs and traffic lights, and modeling dynamic actors like cyclists and other vehicles.

The automated driving system controls routine tasks like steering, braking and accelerating based on its contextual analysis and navigation instructions. Regardless, most current prototypes still retain manual controls for override by a human operator if the system encounters an edge case it cannot confidently manage.

The origins of self-driving cars and autonomous vehicle research reach back decades but rapid progress in AI computing power over the past ten years have enabled major advancements in performance and safety. Waymo, GM Cruise, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and other automakers now test driverless taxi fleet services in select cities but widespread commercial availability remains years away.

Proponents tout self-driving advantages in liberating travelers to focus on other activities in transit, providing mobility to non-drivers and dramatically reducing accident rates stemming from human error behind over 90% today. But significant concerns around vehicular cybersecurity, severe weather resilience, insurance liability and other unknowns persist on the road toward adoption.

Global self-driving cars and autonomous vehicle market revenue is projected to grow over 600% by 2030 – reaching around $2 trillion annually if high commercial deployment scales according to forecasts. While the technological capability increasingly exists, consumer trust, infrastructure coordination and favorable regulations still need maturation to reach driverless mobility on demand.

Self-driving cars promise to revolutionize transportation and reshape cities built around automobile traffic flows. But delivering safe, reliable and accessible autonomous transit requires ongoing optimizations between advanced software systems and world-class hardware engineering across automakers.