How Close Are We to Self-Driving Cars, Really?

Cars that drive themselves—really drive themselves, without a human supervisor in the passenger seat—are coming. It won’t happen tomorrow or even next year. But Chris Urmson, the CEO of Aurora, a company that makes self-driving car software for automakers, says he expects that in about five to 10 years, Americans will start seeing robots cruising down the road in a handful of cities and towns across the country. It will be about 30 to 50 years, he says, until they’re everywhere.

Before founding Aurora, Urmson led the Google engineering team that designed a self-driving car. In 2007, when he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he was a member of one of the earliest groups to build a robot car as part of a DARPA Grand Challenge to develop a self-driving vehicle that could traverse the Mojave Desert.