Users of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Trip Talk app are part of pilot program – one that is transmitting live updates about the construction to their cars and into their phones. It might not sound like much – after all, our phones receive messages all the time – but it's a first step toward what researchers see as a connected future, one where cars will talk not only to other cars but the infrastructure they are traveling on.
By 2020 – just four years from now – vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology will be standard in most new cars. Cars will anonymously "talk" to the other vehicles around them, sharing not only information on location and speed – but also warning drivers of sudden decelerations in the traffic ahead or cars suddenly changing lanes or sitting in blind spots. Beyond that, vehicles will also eventually be able to talk to the road itself, receiving updates on nearby traffic conditions (the Turnpike's pilot program) or even something as simple as pinging a traffic light to change from red to green.
Over the next 20 to 30 years (being conservative), the automobile will undergo a revolution in technology that will fundamentally change its functional equation – largely by removing the driver.
How real is the technology? The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has already started long-range planning for connected and autonomous vehicles and what the technologies could mean for licensing, vehicle registration, infrastructure, etc.
Between 2020 and 2030 (again, being conservative) the first mass-market semi-autonomous vehicles are projected to hit the streets.