Self-Driving Cars: From 15 Miles in the Desert to 1.5 Million Miles on City Streets

Autonomous contraptions. Self-driving cars. Whatever the name, lately the technology behind auto mobility has been front and center. Indeed, few things are as trendy – or trending – as the current state of driverless cars. From Google to Uber and just about every automaker, the race is on to roll out a complete self-driving model in 2019, 2020 – or sooner. And it makes sense, because few things better represent the convergence of technology and automotive. Some experts speculate that auto mobility will create new avenues of opportunity for retail, as dealerships evolve into a comprehensive transactional and consultative experience designed to meet multiple and varied buyer needs.   

Strap a Time Machine on a Delorean

And while the idea of it still seems a bit “Back to Future”, the facts aren’t quite so sci-fi. Believe it or not, Google isn’t the modern-day pioneer of the technology. That would fall under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Otherwise known as DARPA, around 12 years ago they kicked off a series of automated challenges and invited the best and brightest in the field to show up and compete. The result may not have been great at first, but over the course of three challenges (2004, 05 and 07), the technology began to work exceptionally well.  Between off-road terrain and urban landscapes, the competitions helped to set in motion development of autonomous cars. Take a look at how far and fast the technology has progressed in just over a decade.