Article by Gerry Malloy

They’ve been the stuff of dreams for decades – cars that drive themselves. Now they’re approaching near-term reality. In fact, they’re already here in limited form, as you can see for yourself – perhaps even try – at the Toronto Auto Show’s AutoConnect Showcase.

As a brand new feature exhibit at the 2014 Canadian International Autoshow, AutoConnect’s purpose is to make consumers aware of all the varied connectivity features available in today’s vehicles and to preview features that could become available in the future – extending all the way to autonomous cars.

Connectivity in cars has expanded far beyond the ability to keep people connected to the outside world 24/7, including access to the Internet with all its associated features. That’s just the beginning.

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AutoConnect road of the future and Mercedes-Benz S-Class driving simulator. Click image to enlarge

Cars can also connect and communicate with each other and with their surroundings, using cellular, GPS, radar, laser, infrared, microwave and camera-based technologies. The driving force behind these mushrooming capabilities is safety – the goal being cars that not only reduce the consequences of collisions but prevent them from occurring.

As is apparent in the AutoConnect Showcase, automakers are already well on the way to achieving that goal with advanced safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and intervention,  lane keeping, cross-wind correction, forward collision alert and intervention and cross-traffic alert and intervention. The most advanced systems can actually brake and steer for themselves.

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Ford Autonomous Driving

Many of these features can be both seen and experienced in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class simulator, which creates a realistic driver experience to demonstrate the various technologies – including that car’s ability for hands-off steering.

Another focal point is a Ford C-Max Energi demonstrating its self-parking capabilities – right in the exhibit. Ford also previews an automatic obstacle avoidance feature now under development, while Mazda showcases its advanced safety technologies and Subaru puts the spotlight on its EyeSight camera-based system. Infiniti’s offering is a unique Predictive Forward Collision Warning that monitors and responds to the actions of the vehicle two cars ahead. Chrysler, General Motors, Volvo and more also display their latest connectivity and safety features.

These features are the building blocks leading to the fully autonomous vehicle of the near future. Through the visual effects, interactive displays and realistic simulations in the AutoConnect Showcase, visitors to the show can experience for themselves that the future is not only exotic and exciting but in many respects it is already here.