2013's Biggest Tech Moments

Steering Toward Robotic Cars
Mercedes' ultra-fancy S-Class vehicles got a little more robotic in 2013. © Sergey Kohl/Demotix/Corbis

The concept of the self-driving car has been around since at least 1965, when General Motors proposed its Autoline speed and directional control system for expressways [source: Benford]. And although kids remain disappointed that automatic transmission and cruise control aren't as cool as they sound, the technologies introduced in 2013 took us one step closer to that future.

Take, for example, Nissan's Infiniti G37, the first commercial car with drive-by-wire steering. Steer-by-wire removes the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels and replaces it with computers, electronics and motors [source: Colwell]. Or consider the Mercedes S-Class, which comes equipped with more consumer electronics than a Best Buy, including a 360-degree array of sensors with camera, radar and sonar, tied into the sedan's steering, throttle and stability controls. The system enables the car to handle whatever curves the road or its drivers throw at it at speeds approaching 124 mph (200 kph). The S-Class also sports a camera-augmented suspension system that compensates for upcoming bumps, as well as a night vision camera that helps drivers spot animals or people on roads.

These constitute just a few of the increasingly common technologies that improve safety today while setting the stage for fully or partially self-driving vehicles tomorrow [source: O'Donnell].