We get it — it seems like every company is promising self-driving cars any day now, but where are they?
Sure, some Cruise Chevy Bolt cars and Waymo minivans are awkwardly test-driving around cities like San Francisco and Phoenix, but our driverless future still seems impossibly far away. You want to be napping, watching Netflix, and sipping on an evening cocktail while your car drives you home after a long day at work.
While we wait on the robots to completely take the wheel, here are some gift ideas that will at least help make it feel like you're driving into the future. Nothing can match true autonomy, but for the driver on your gift list who dreams of a robot car, these gifts can make her feel like her ride is at least getting smarter.
These are fun gift ideas, but let's remember: cars don't drive themselves just yet. So no, you can't watch Harry Potter movies from the passenger seat. Eyes on the road.
Image: The Distracted Driving Device
The whole point of autonomous cars is to make driving safer. Until we have the machines making sure we don't hit other cars and people, we need to pay attention. That means looking away from our smartphones. The Distracted Driving Device won't let you start the car unless your phone is in the distraction-prevention cradle. For real.
Nonda's smart rearview camera gives you the gift of eyes in the back of your head. For cars that don't have a back-up camera, the ZUS Wireless Smart Backup Camera lets you see what's happening behind the car, all 170 degrees behind. The device connects to your smartphone and stays charged for three months.
3. Sowlo Car
An in-car assistant that talks to you and only you. That's what Noveto's Sowlo infotainment sound system can do, so your passenger doesn't have to hear a text from your mom. Sounds waves are sent only to your ears using 3D sensors. The only problem is the headphone-free, personalized sound driving experience isn't here yet. But one day!
Price: Wait for it.
Image: drivemode dash
With big buttons and voice controls, the Drivemode Dash app makes using your phone while driving not the most reckless and dangerous activity it typically is. It's still not meant for Instagram browsing but the important stuff is easy to access like maps or phone calls.
5. Harman Spark
AT&T offers the Harman Spark plug-in smart car device to turn even your 1999 Honda Accord into a connected car. Once plugged in, the Spark can help find parking and lets you pay from the car, acts like a virtual mechanic that flags car problems, and turns your car into a WiFi hotspot.
So you want to get groceries delivered to your trunk. But how do you get the delivery guy the key? That's where turning your license plate into a smartphone-controlled key holder comes in. The Phrame license plate lifts up to reveal a lock box controlled through an app. So don't worry about exchanging keys or trudging down to the parking lot to pick up your delivery.
Price: Reserve for upcoming release
If your car can't monitor how you're driving, there's an app for that. The Life360 driver protection app uses sensors in your phone to detect if you've crashed and automatically calls emergency crews. It'll also alert your emergency contacts. A weekly report lets you know how distracted you've been on the road and other bad driving habits you should work on like hard braking and speeding. The app also connects you to roadside assistance for those frustrating moments when you lock the keys in the car or get a flat.
Price: $7.99 a month
Image: German autolabs
Chris is a voice-controlled AI for your car, like Alexa in your living room but for the driver's seat. You can even gesture toward the device and it'll send a text or open up navigation — for those moments when you want to chat with your car or turn it into your digital butler. You know, normal car things.
Price: $285 USD
Image: skyroam solis
This 4G LTE global WiFi hotspot and powerbank connects you to the internet no matter where you are. Boot up the hotspot, connect your phone or laptop or tablet while in the passenger seat, and you're good to go. Or stop wasting your phone plan data just to stream your music or podcasts while on the road. It's small enough to easily sit on the dashboard, in a center console, or glove compartment, turning your car into a connected vehicle.
Price: $149.99 with 24-hour day passes for $9 each or $99/month for a monthly unlimited WiFi subscription. Available for $9.95 daily rentals.
There are so many e-bikes to choose from — even GM is releasing electric bicycles next year — but riding one is the ultimate snub to the auto industry. Instead of waiting for cars to drive themselves you're getting a bicycle that gives you a boost up hills. Take that.
Bonus: Welcome to the Future Which Is Mine by Not Elon Musk and founder of The Onion Scott Dikkers
Image: Grand Central Publishing
What's better than the promise of life-altering tech than a whole book filled with satire about the tech industry? The gift of laughter can't be beat.
Price: $15.41 on Amazon
If self-driving cars are all about not driving yourself, then making someone else drive you around is a solid substitute. Uber and Lyft gift cards might be fairly low-tech gifts, but the gift of essentially a chauffeured ride will make anyone forget how far we have to go for self-driving vehicles to be everywhere.