In the not-too-distant future, the majority of driving will be done without a steering wheel. Cars that drive themselves — sometimes referred to as “self-driving cars” — will become widespread by around 2040.

A few years ago, only a handful of major car manufacturers had any kind of self-driving car programs in action. Now every major automaker has some form of autonomous driving technology on the road, including Audi, BMW, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz.

Even though we’ve made great strides in our understanding of how self-driving cars work, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what happens after we solve them. In this post, you can explore some of the big questions that come up once we get there.

What will happen to driving itself?

At the moment, most self-driving cars are subcompact or compact cars that seat three people. These cars do not have the luxury features or power of a full-blown sports car. With self-driving technology, driverless cars will be limited in what they can achieve.

While full autonomy will allow cars to drive themselves at high speeds, navigate heavy traffic, and handle hard braking, it won’t be able to drive in stop-and-go traffic, navigate curves in the road, or make high-speed turns.

Most importantly, autonomous cars will still need human drivers to intervene if something goes wrong. As we begin to see more of these cars on the road, it will be interesting to see what happens to driving itself.

The good news is that once the novelty of driving a self-driving car has worn off, people will quickly realize that they have the skills and knowledge to drive just as well as they did before.

What happens when people can drive themselves?

Because there will be very few situations where it makes sense for a driver to take control of a car, almost no one will. That’s good news because it means that driving itself will become a much less appealing career option.

However, there will likely still be demand for professional driving because people will want to be able to drive when they’re not able to drive themselves. Realistically, this change won’t happen until the last decade or so.

As you can see from the timeline above, we’re still a long way away from being able to drive ourselves.

When will self-driving cars be widely available?

Most experts think that driverless cars will become widely available around the same time that drones and other motorized flying robots are becoming available to the general public. In other words, we’re not too far away from being able to drive around in a self-driving car.

The main reason for this timeline is that it makes the most sense logistically. If a company is going to build a self-driving car, it makes sense to first test it out on the road so that it can be made ready for widespread adoption.

Test driving a self-driving car is just as important as building a car that people can drive — perhaps more so. Most car manufacturers are working toward having some form of self-driving technology on the road by the year 2020, so this timeline makes a lot of sense.

What’s next for self-driving cars?

The big question is what’s next for self-driving cars. Currently, most of the attention is on developing driverless taxi fleets. This might seem like a nice solution, but it has drawbacks.

For one thing, getting a fleet of self-driving cars ready for the public is a very expensive and difficult process. It would probably cost more to operate a taxi fleet with self-driving cars than to maintain and operate the same number of taxis without them.

At the same time, getting a large enough number of drivers to make a full-blown taxi service a viable option is extremely difficult. It probably won’t happen in a market where over 90% of people prefer to drive themselves. So while a taxi service would be a great solution, it’s not one that everyone will welcome.

Is this the end of the road for human drivers?

One of the big questions people have about driverless cars is whether they will eventually be replaced by driverless trucks, planes, and automobiles. While this is a legitimate concern, it’s overblown.

As we’ve seen in the auto industry’s history, there’s very little reason to think that driverless cars will ever be remotely close to being as commonplace as human-driven cars. In fact, many experts think that the most likely scenario is that driverless cars will be less common than human-driven cars and that they’ll only be used in particular circumstances.

For example, driverless cars can’t usually drive themselves during the day because they need to be recharged after nightfall. On the other hand, when most people are back in bed, driverless trucks, planes, and automobiles can do the driving for them.

Final thoughts

The future of driving is still very much in doubt, but already it’s looking pretty bright. With the right kind of user interface and technology, it’s possible to drive a car without ever taking your hands off the wheel.