Depending on who you ask, fully autonomous cars are anywhere from two to ten years away. Regardless, there are still many technical, legal and emotional hurdles to overcome. But in the run up to having cars drive themselves, we can look forward to increasing levels of driver assistance for the more routine, annoying (or sometimes embarrassing) tasks. Case in point: parking.
Helping you cope with the squeeze
The average UK parking space is a cosy 4.8m by 2.4m (7.8ft by 15.7ft). The popularity - and size - of large SUVs, as well as family hatchbacks and saloons can make parking a bit of a squeeze.
Parking-related incidents account for more than 30 per cent of all accidents, with more than 675,000 parking collisions registered each year.
So roll on cars that can safely park themselves while you sit back and relax. The more advanced systems can even park the car while you watch from outside. They're ideal for helping to squeeze a large car into a small space, or parking tight against a wall or hedge.
How does it work?
The technology itself isn't new. First unveiled in 2006, it's evolved and become cheaper with each generation of cars. It's now an optional extra on most family hatchbacks.
The tech works by allowing you to select the manoeuvre you'd like the car to do - say a parallel park or reversing into a space. It uses 360 degree cameras and sensors to find a space. Once it's found one, you select reverse and it will turn the wheel and move into the spot like a pro, saving you the embarrassment from any onlookers, not to mention your lovely alloys from being kerbed.
Hate circling for a spot? In the future, this technology is likely to be able to help cars find their own spaces by scanning for empty bays. It would feed this data into a cloud, and use the sat nav to direct you to a space, saving you the hassle of driving around aimlessly searching for a park.
Further ahead, your future car could valet park itself, as if by magic. You'll get out at a drop off point and your car will drive off to find a parking space on its own. When you're ready to leave, you'll summon it back and it'll come get you.
From this point, it won't be a massive leap to take us to the next level and have fully autonomous vehicles.