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If there is anything that the rise of microprocessors has shown us, it is that very little separates the wildest idea from realization. Fifty years ago, the notion of a driverless car was sci-fi fare. Nowadays it is not a matter of if, but when.

Mind you, driver-assist systems in vehicles have been the norm for a long time. In the 1940s, the engineering breakthrough was the automatic transmission; 10 years later it was power steering and braking. Up until the debut of microelectronics in the 1980s, though, the push to make driving safer, easier, and more comfortable superseded automation efforts.

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