Although there are many different predictions, no one really knows when fully “automatic” vehicles will be available for drivers to purchase. Called “autonomous vehicles,” such cars would basically take over the entire driving task- instead of people driving cars around, cars would drive people around.
But once autonomous vehicles are available, the latest predictions indicate that it will be at least 20 years before the public’s fleet of vehicles will be wholly autonomous. Thus, for two decades or longer, conventional vehicles will be interacting with autonomous vehicles- an interesting mix that could cause some safety problems.
The largest concern seems to be that drivers of conventional vehicles have expectations about the likely actions of other people driving conventional vehicles. Communication among drivers is also generally very effective in preventing collisions. For example, when drivers can make eye contact, they are usually successful in preventing any sort of conflict. But this type of driver-to-driver communication would not occur if one of the drivers is driving an autonomous vehicle.
Moreover, it is useful to understand that there are many issues to address before autonomous vehicles will be able to successfully integrate among the millions of conventional vehicles on the road today. Drivers might have to become even more vigilant than they are today!