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The Future of Driving – The Difference Between Driverless Cars and Automated Cars

With the frequent news stories about developments in self-driving cars, it’s easy to forget that it’s not an all-or-nothing technology. Automated vehicles already exist and continue to expand in their capabilities. An automated vehicle is one that possesses any automated features related to operating it. By this definition, self-driving cars can be included as a sub-category of automated vehicles, albeit a unique sub-category. Looking closer at the details can help draw a better distinction.

The goal of automated cars is to relieve the driver of handling various driving-related tasks while keeping them in the driver’s seat. Self-driving cars on the other hand are still in the development phase, and they are designed to relieve the driver from driving completely. There are already cars with automated features on the market, while self-driving cars won’t be mainstream, or even available, for years to come.


Currently, some manufacturers already offer sophisticated automation including collision avoidance, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and parking assist. Collision avoidance utilizes radar or cameras to detect when the vehicle is about to hit an object and applies the brakes. This technology is already provided by the Mercedes S-Class, Acura, and Volkswagen. Adaptive cruise control builds on this by using braking and accelerating in highway situations to keep the car a safe ways from other traffic. Both parking assist and lane keeping can access the steering and braking while using vision capabilities to inform a computer that handles the operation. The ability of a computerized system to recognize the parking spaces and road lanes is still limited and manufacturers like BMW, Nissan, Ford, GM, Audi, along with companies like Apple, Nokia, LG, and Cisco are working to make this technology more reliable.

Along For the Ride

Unlike the series of discrete functions performed by automated cars, a self-driving car is meant to handle all the work of the driver, leaving only the decision about a destination left to the owner. This type of vehicle needs to understand its surroundings in great detail while tying together individual automated functions. Google has led the way with this type of vehicle and has logged approximately 700,000 miles in test driving. The problem is that self-driving cars would need extremely detailed maps of all possible roads they’d potentially use. They also have yet to overcome poorly marked roads and weather conditions like snow and rain that distort the road’s appearance. These are among a few of the obstacles that are standing in the way of production, which is why there are likely many more years of testing and development to come.

Down the Lane

While automated cars are already on the road, improvements in computer visual recognition will allow them to carry out more complex functions in the future. Of course, these advancements will also make completely self-driving cars more likely. At the current rate of improvement, it’s thought that a truly driver-less vehicle will not be ready until 2020. Not only are there technological glitches to be worked through, but there is the concern of computer hackers, privacy, and gaining public support.

Both automated vehicles and self-driving technology are changing the auto industry at a rapid pace. Daily discoveries and developments are leading to smarter and safer vehicles, and the future promises to bring highly advanced technology to our daily driving trips. No matter how far in the future a driverless car may be, we are already enjoying the fruits of technology on our dashboards—and it can only get better from here. The information for this article was provided by the car experts at Speedy Apollo Auto Service Centres, who specialize in brake repair in Calgary.

AUTHOR BIO: Dixie is a freelance writer who loves to write for business, women’s interests and technology. She lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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