Is really a self-driving car right around the corner? image

Cars that drive themselves could be on U.S. and European roads by the end of this decade. Or not? Are they really needed? Are they really safe?

Automakers, universities and others are at various stages in the development of autonomous cars. Google is testing some in California. General Motors recently announced that its “Super Cruise” system, which uses radar and cameras to steer and stop a car, could be on Cadillacs by the end of this decade. And Nissan has boldly promised that it will have an autonomous driving system by 2020.

“This is not a ‘Star Wars’ technology. This is a technology that’s becoming more and more reliable,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said earlier this year at the Detroit auto show.

But, before there’s a driverless car in every driveway there are still a host of issues at large – like the fat that laws now require a licensed driver at the wheel, insurers will need to determine who’s at fault if a self-driving car crashes and highways and other roads, not to mention cities, would need to accommodate cars both with and without drivers.

In a recent report, consulting company Navigant Research estimated it will be at least 2035 before a majority of vehicles sold worldwide will be able to drive themselves. Navigant predicts that technology will come in bits and pieces — first self-parking cars, then systems to help drivers navigate traffic jams, then cars that can cruise by themselves on a highway — and will take some time to migrate from luxury cars to more mainstream brands.