Have you ever heard someone talk about how his or her car is so luxurious that it practically drives itself?

Well — today a statement like that can almost be taken quite literally.

While it seems as if most automakers are making a brash attempt to be the first to produce a vehicle that actually drives itself, try not to get too excited about the initial wave of products to hit the market.

Unfortunately, this new technology will not enable you to be chauffeured around by a computer while you hang out in the backseat with a six-pack and a sandwich — at least not at first. These advancements are more about making driving easier and safer all around.

For example, the Ford Motor Company is currently developing a “Traffic Jam Assist” feature specifically designed to work in heavy traffic jams by allowing the car to keep up with traffic and stay in its lane. However, this development is still five years away.

The folks at Audi are a little more ambitious since having a TTS sports car drive itself up Pikes Peak in 2010. “Our piloted-driving technology is shifting from a purely research phase into actual pre-production planning,” says representative Brad Stertz.

Most recently, Google demonstrated a self-driving Prius that essentially took the wheel even though a driver was on board.

However, most automakers are simply making modest advancements.

  • General Motors plans to install a “Super Cruise” feature in its Cadillac that will allow the vehicle to control itself at highway speed.
  • Volkswagen’s luxury division is planning a “Traffic Jam Assistant” that can take over driving up to 37 miles per hour.
  • Mercedes is working on an “Advanced Driving Assist” which is said to be able to carry out frequently occurring maneuvers including lane changes and passing vehicles.

Automakers suggest this new technology will help reduce a driver’s stress and add a new level of safety behind the wheel.