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Drive the car of the future? No, it drives you

A big sensation at the Consumer Electronic Show this year was a preview of the autonomous driving car, a vehicle equipped with a supercomputing chip and software that can recognize other vehicles and obstacles. Special correspondent Steve Goldbloom takes the passenger seat in one of these connected cars.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    First , there were hands-free devices, then voice-directed gadgets. Now the auto industry is talking about replacing drivers altogether.

    Technology is certainly moving in that direction.

    We sent special correspondent Steve Goldbloom to Las Vegas to check it out.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    If this car looks like it's from the future, that's because it is. It's the Mercedes Luxury in Motion. With inward-facing seats and gesture recognition technology, it was drawing a crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show this month in Las Vegas.

    Some 20,000 tech products were launched at CES this year, from recreational drones to smart kitchen appliances. But one of the most buzzed about showings was a preview of the driverless car.

  • JEN-HSUN HUANG, CEO, NVIDIA:

    This is a pretty big deal for us.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    Jen-Hsun Huang is the CEO of Nvidia, a Silicon Valley-based technology company that unveiled the Tegra X1 superchip, a brand-new computing platform for cars.

  • JEN-HSUN HUANG:

    One of the biggest revolutions going on right now is the building of and the creating of the autonomous driving car.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    Just a few years ago, Nvidia was at CES showing off their high-speed processor for video games on Xbox. That expertise has now found its way inside the car.

  • JEN-HSUN HUANG:

    We're here to announce a supercomputing chip. It will be able to recognize ambulances and fire engines and pedestrians and all kinds of conditions that you would confront while you're driving.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    And while most cars lose value the day you drive it off the lot, connected vehicles are expected to improve with age.

  • JEN-HSUN HUANG:

    In the future, we're going to have all cars be connected, and they will be connected to the cloud.

    You will get software upgrades over time and, as a result, your car gets better and better over time.

  • JOHN ABSMEIER, Director, Delphi Labs, Silicon Valley:

    Automotive has always been about the looks and the horsepower of the car. We're moving more towards a software-defined car.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    John Absmeier runs the Silicon Valley lab for Delphi Automotive, one of the world's largest automotive parts manufacturers. On this densely trafficked day at CES, he's taking us on a tour of the Las Vegas strip, a driverless one.

  • JOHN ABSMEIER:

    The operator of the vehicle is actually not driving. He's just supervising what the vehicle is doing. And he's keeping his hands and his feet near all of the controls just in case anything happens.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    Our driver, or, should I say, supervisor, is ultimately responsible for the vehicle's safety. But the car itself had to pass a standard driving test, just like the rest of us.

  • JOHN ABSMEIER:

    We actually had a Las Vegas DVD administrator giving us an exam to make sure that the vehicle performed safe and as good or better than a human. The system is taking information from about 20 different sensors, and then determines where to drive the vehicle. That's sort of like navigation. We program an endpoint and the car tries to get there.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    Absmeier says we can expect to see urban driverless technology like this hit the market in the next 10 years.

    But there's still a few challenges. Although connected cars have faster processing power than humans, one thing missing is judgment.

  • JOHN ABSMEIER:

    You also might look over and see somebody texting on their phone and go, get away from that guy, right? The car doesn't see that. It can't recognize that.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    Still, driverless technology brings with it some unique advancements in safety.

  • JOHN ABSMEIER:

    If the driver experienced some kind of a life-threatening issue, like a heart attack, the car could call an ambulance or route to a hospital.

  • STEVE GOLDBLOOM:

    Driverless cars are still a ways out from being certified for everyday use. But if CES is truly a predictor of things to come, then a street full of autonomous driving vehicles is much closer than you may expect.

    For the PBS NewsHour in Las Vegas, I'm Steve Goldbloom.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And a quick postscript to Steve's report: These cars are not about to hit the market next year, as you heard. The Delphi concept we saw, for example, is not expected for a decade. Only Delphi can get a permit to test it on the road, and the price is not yet determined.

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