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Future Paved for Driverless Cars?

Soon, you may be able to text and drive — and show your customers listings on your tablet — all while on your way to the next showing. Driverless cars are closer to reality than you may think. At the International Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas this week, several auto makers are touting features that allow you to take your hands off the wheel.

In fact, Bosch, a global automotive supplier, said during a session Tuesday that it will likely have a completely automatically powered car available to the public within the next seven to 10 years. It already has two models that it is testing in San Francisco and Germany that can drive themselves. The cars have 360-degree sensors that track their surroundings and adjust the cars accordingly — switching lanes, changing speeds, braking, and maneuvering through turns, all without any driver intervention. When drivers want to take back control of the car, they just put their hands back on the steering wheel and instantly have control over it again.

By 2050, industry researcher IHS Automotive has predicted, nearly every vehicle — both private and commercial — will be a self-driving car. The roads will be safer then too, according to IHS.

Indeed, one motivation behind developing driverless cars is for increased safety, auto makers say. Studies have shown that vehicle accidents would significantly decrease due to less driver error if more cars were driverless, said Dirk Hoheisel, member of the Bosch Board of Management, during Tuesday’s session on “Road to Driverless Mobility.” Hoheisel also said driverless cars would usher in better traffic management on the roads, greater fuel efficiency due to vehicles being driven optimally, and an obvious driver benefit — allowing you to be more mobile and productive while you drive, even reading the newspaper or checking your e-mail.

According to a paving contractor several auto makers at CES are showing off technology that is paving the way for greater connected cars and driverless features.

For example, Valeo is showing off a feature that turns your car into your valet. With its smartphone app, the car can park itself, even when the driver isn’t in the car. You can have the car come get you too.

Also at CES, BMW is showing off a 2-series Coupe and 6-series Gran Coupe that can drive itself, by making lane changes, going around corners, and braking without the driver doing anything.

Audi also unveiled an A6 sedan with an “autopilot” system that can take over the steering, braking, and accelerating for a driver in stop-and-go traffic. Audi says the technology will be available as an option on models within four or five years.

Still, auto makers realize there are several challenges to address with driverless cars before they go mainstream, such as security, reliability, and the ability for the car to have a constant connectivity in sensing objects around it.

The driverless ability will come with an extra cost to consumers too, likely adding anywhere between $7,000 to $10,000 to a car’s price tag, according to IHS.

–By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Daily News

Watch the Bosch driverless car in action:

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