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Cars and computers: A look at the future of autos (pictures)

The computerization of cars has already begun, but the technology will take off dramatically now with the mobile Internet and self-driving vehicles. Here's a look at technology that's changing the auto industry.

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stephen-shankland-headshot-1
Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Stephen Shankland
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1 of 18 Nissan

Nissan autonomous vehicle

The computerization of cars has already begun, but the technology will take off dramatically now with the mobile Internet and self-driving vehicles.

This self-driving Nissan Leaf, for example, is a prototype that the company says will lead to self-driving vehicles in mass production by 2020.

Click on for more technology that's changing the auto industry, or read CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.

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2 of 18 Google

Google monitoring traffic

Google's technology shows vehicles it's identified as boxes and registers the status of an upcoming traffic light. For details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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3 of 18 Freescale Semiconductor

Freescale microcontroller

Freescale's Kinetis KL02 microcontroller is a chip that measures just 1.9mm by 2.0mm -- much smaller than a key on a computer keyboard. Microcontrollers such as this one will bring computing technology to many devices that previously used mechanical controls or dumber electronics. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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4 of 18 Audi

Audi self-driving TTS

A self-driving Audi TTS successfully drove up Pike's Peak in 2010. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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5 of 18 Google

Google spots the pedestrian

Google's computer systems analyze signals from a laser scanner to identify cars, trucks, pedestrians, and other features. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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6 of 18 Volvo

Platooning test

The Sartre project in Sweden tested platooning in which three computer-controlled cars linked up to a truck under the control of a human driver. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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7 of 18 Google

Google self-driving Lexus

Google's self-driving Lexus RX450h joined its earlier Toyota Prius models. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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8 of 18 Continental

Let the car drive itself

A Continental-modified self-driving Volkswagen Passat near Las Vegas. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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9 of 18 Continental

Heads-up display for drivers

This illustration shows a mock-up of how Continental's heads-up display (HUD) might overlay an alert with a driver's real-world view of the road. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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10 of 18 screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Bosch lidar-based self-driving system

Bosch's lidar-based sensors give a 3D map of what's near a car and overlay that atop navigation data for the roads. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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11 of 18 Google

Google-eye view of the street

Google's computer systems analyze signals from a laser scanner to identify cars, trucks, pedestrians, and other features. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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12 of 18 Audi

Hands-free? driver-free

If self-driving cars such as this Audi catch on, the sight of a steering wheel turning itself could become common. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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13 of 18 Google

Google execs in self-driving Prius

Google's self-driving car technology on display with co-founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with executive chairman Eric Schmidt. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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14 of 18 Audi

Audi self-driving sensors

The top of Audi's self-driving TTS bristled with antennas. Expect production models to be more streamlined but still have many sensors. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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15 of 18 IBM

Smart-car electronics

A system from IBM and NXP Semiconductors gathers car events like use of fog lights and windshield wipers then beams it to city planners who can find trouble spots. It also alerts city residents about nearby problems over smartphones. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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16 of 18 VTT Technical Research Centre

Slippery road data

VTT Technical Research Centre's technology can create a real-time map of road slipperiness in Finland based on data from a relatively small fraction of the cars on the road. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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17 of 18 Sartre

Plug into a platoon, then tune out

Hook your car into a platoon of self-driving cars, then use your new free time to sip your coffee, listen to music, have a snack, make a call, or read a book. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.
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18 of 18 screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Finding the rain in Eindhoven

A system from IBM and NXP Semiconductors gathers sensor data from cars in the city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. One result is that city planners get a real-time view of where rain is falling. For more details, see CNET's stories on the marriage of computing technology and cars.

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