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Why Driverless Cars Both Excite & Terrify Automotive Futurists

(CBS SF) -- Technology analysts who monitor Silicon Valley for a living have a bit of advice: fasten your seat belts. Driverless cars are coming your way. They're ahead of schedule - -and may soon be for sale.

In the movie "Minority Report,"driverless cars effortlessly zoom down a futuristic highway.

Well, the future is already here, and rolling down the road. Look no further than the new Mercedes concept vehicle; and the fact that all the major car manufacturers have set up shop in Silicon Valley.

"I think it will be revolutionary change," said Maarten Sierhuis. Sierhuis is the director of Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley.

Nissan plans to sell a driverless car in just five years.

And, once we can buy them, expect a jaw-dropping acceleration in the technology until we have a truly smart car.

"When the car can decide where to get off at, make lane changes by itself and decide where to park and how to park," explained Sierhuis.

At Classic Cars West in Oakland, one of the first mass produced vehicles is on display in all its beauty and restored glory. But when the Ford Model A hit the showroom, no one could have ever predicted the hidden curses that would come with such a beautiful machine: traffic jams, fossil fuel, air pollution, driving while texting or under the influence, even having to find parking.

Driverless cars will change all that: To fuel our imagination, we turned to Silicon Valley Technology forecaster and futurist Paul Saffo.

"The transformative impact is going to be vastly greater than we realize," Saffo said.

These vehicles will most likely all be electric; may result in more efficient use of freeways, and allow the passengers to take their hands and eyes off the road.

Saffo says smart cars will benefit commuters who are stuck for hours in traffic.

"You'll be able to sit there, and read or sleep and not worry about driving," he explained.

And, if you're not driving, most experts agree: you're not causing accidents.

1 report commissioned by Morgan Stanley estimates a 90 percent reduction in crashes that will save nearly 30,000 lives a year as well as prevent millions of injuries.

"People shouldn't drive and the faster we get people out from behind the wheels the safer we will all be," Saffo said.

Saffo predicts only the wealthy and car fanatics will own driverless cars.

Most of us will subscribe to an on-demand service, and that will free up parking lots.

All this real estate then can be put to better uses, like high density housing, and just imagine what you will do with your empty garage.

But the technology promises to eliminate millions of jobs.

Saffo says taxis, limos and Uber cars will all become automated - eliminating the need for drivers.

ALSO READ: How Uber's Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs And Reshape The Economy by 2025

Some major automobile makers and their suppliers won't survive.

"We're actually going to need a lot less cars and that has implications for Detroit," the futurist remarked.

But the biggest hidden curse?

"These cars actually terrify me in terms of privacy," Saffo said.

He explained how these cars will collect all sorts of intimate details about your life -- as they pick you up, and drop you off -- recording video and amassing data as you travel. And there will probably be a camera on the inside tracking your eye gaze, noting what you find interesting as you go your way.

That presents another problem: security. With all this data, how safe is your information? The fear: Those black hat hackers will break into your car.

"Just as crooks have found a way into your computer and into your cell phone, they are going to figure out a way into your car," noted Saffo.

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