Like a bored child on a long car trip, an advanced-vehicle enthusiast can be forgiven for asking, “Are we there yet?” The rollout and adoption of cars that use alternative energy or that drive themselves has been maddeningly slow. IEEE Spectrum’s Top 10 Tech Cars has also been posing and pondering that question every year.
Alternative-energy cars, at least in the United States, face head winds in the form of cheap gasoline and the Trump administration’s efforts to loosen fuel-economy standards and other climate-change-related regulations. On the self-driving front, it’s become painfully clear that the hype has far outrun the reality.
Even so, electric cars really are trickling down to mainstream buyers and budgets. A fine example is the Hyundai Kona Electric crossover, which was a clear choice for our Top 10. And self-driving technology itself really is infiltrating almost every new car on the road, sometimes in ways that aren’t immediately apparent to owners: If your new car is equipped with adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, or a lane-keeping system, it is locking onto a path toward full autonomy. It’s just not as far down that path as some have suggested we’d be by now. This year, though, an important milestone comes in the form of a BMW 3-Series car that can take all the guesswork out of tricky reverse maneuvers. But now, eyes front for this year’s Top 10.