Since the early 2000’s vehicle manufacturers and consumers alike have buzzed about the concept of the self-driving car. But when early pilots in 2004 provided dismal results, many were skeptical, saying, “not in this lifetime.”

Now, an unlikely player in the self-driving vehicle space, Google, along with half a dozen manufacturers, are leading the way in an effort to bring this capability to life. Audi, Mercedes, BMW, and yes, Google, have recently sent self-driving cars across millions of miles of roadway in the Silicon Valley and other parts of the U.S. The results have been successful, leading manufacturers to cautiously set a goal to release self-driving models sometime between 2017 and 2021.

As manufacturers continue to test these self-driving vehicles, questions remain, including how “self” is the self-driving car? Here are some early projections to consider:

  • The first vehicles will likely be self-driving on limited access roads such as interstates, but will need a human driver for navigating city streets.
  • Self-driving vehicles may have the ability to be controlled by both the driver and the passengers, if need be.
  • A driver will be alerted at least 10 seconds in advance when he or she needs to step in to manually navigate something approaching such as a traffic build-up or a vehicle cutting in the lane.
  • Beyond self-parking, self-driving cars may be equipped to hunt out available spaces in parking garages.
  • Self-driving vehicles will likely be equipped with a type of gesture recognition software to help the vehicle learn the driver’s habits.
  • Some manufacturers are re-thinking vehicle design, including Ford, considering passenger and driver seats which face each other and swivel for easy in and out access.