NHTSA is currently working on a set of written rules governing driverless cars and conducting a large-scale test in Ann Arbor, Mich., of technology that allows cars to talk to each other.

Robot cars are already here

How long until you can take a nap on the way to work?

The Celent report has autonomous cars becoming dominant in 2023 while the IEEE puts the date at 2040. But change is already happening.

Volvo claims it will have its traffic jam assist -- which allows a vehicle to drive itself at speeds up to 31 mph -- ready for the 2014 model year.

Adaptive cruise control, which varies vehicle speed to match traffic, is becoming commonplace, as are blind spot monitors. (See how new technology filters its way to cheaper cars.) Audi, BMW and Mercedes have developed concept cars, and Cadillac expects to introduce partially autonomous models by 2015.

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