Future travel: Flying cars and space hotels

  • A driverless car from Mercedes-Benz is seen on display during the first Consumer Electronics Show in Asia in Shanghai on May 26, 2015. STR/AFP/Getty Images

    Driverless cars are coming. In fact, their technology has been arriving incrementally for years -- think not just of the Google (GOOG) prototypes but self-parking cars that are already on the roads.

    Some of Tesla's (TSLA) Model S cars will soon get updates that includes a test of a self-driving feature, CEO Elon Musk told shareholders just a few weeks ago.

    In May at the Hoover Dam, German automaker Daimler rolled out its autonomous semi-truck, which it's testing in Nevada.

    And Comet, a consulting firm that specializes in the "robo-revolution," recently told the New York Observer it will roll out automated vehicle pilot projects in six to 10 U.S. cities this year with a target of 30 by 2016.

    Plans call for vehicles that will not only take over the driving but actually talk to each other on the roads, promising to significantly reduce crashes.

    "My guess would be that we could see fully autonomous vehicles, the technology ready, in the next 10 years. But it may be much longer before see see them, partly because of legal issues, partly because our infrastructure may not be ready for it, it's not entirely clear," Nidhi Kalra, an information scientist at RAND said in an October. "We're progressing rapidly, and now we're trying to get from 99 percent reliable to 99.99 percent reliable and those final fractions of a percent are the hardest to pin down."

    And when they do come along, some locations are probably a safer bet than others, at least initially.

    What about a place like New York City?

    "I would say definitely nothing before 2020, since companies aren't even testing them in New York right now (state law doesn't allow them)" Rodney Stiles, director of research and evaluation at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, said in an email. "But 20 years from now, I could see them getting through the cycle of testing, piloting for passenger service, and acceptance as a mode of transport. That's just my opinion and not our official agency stance."

  • Amy Langfield

    Amy Langfield is a freelance writer raised in California and now based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyLangfield.