Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios 

Even if fully autonomous vehicles are still years away, automakers are rolling out automatic braking, computer-guided lane changing and other features that try to make conventional cars smarter and safer.

Why it matters: Tech continues to advance even as consumer demand lags behind the industry’s pace of investment. How consumers use or misuse, embrace or reject these features — and what impact they have on safety — will determine the course of AV development as much as the tech itself.

What we're watching:

  • The Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas next week, which has become as important as any auto show, will feature the latest in automotive robotics and sensors, including lidar systems (like radar, only with light) that can help cars see and understand their environment.
  • A week later, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we'll be watching for hands-free highway driving and other advanced driver-assist systems.
  • These technologies are intended to make driving safer, but people may get complacent and mistakenly believe the car can drive itself.

Go deeper

Updated 25 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: Studies show drop in COVID death rate — The next wave is gaining steam — The overwhelming aftershocks of the pandemic.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.

Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a vote on Republicans' $500 billion targeted COVID-19 relief bill, a far less comprehensive package than the $1.8 trillion+ deal currently being negotiated between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

Why it matters: There's little appetite in the Senate for a stimulus bill with a price tag as large as what President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been calling for. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "skinny" proposal was mostly seen as a political maneuver, as it had little chance of making it out of the Senate.

The hazy line between politics and influence campaigns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The recent firestorm over the New York Post’s publication of stories relying on data from a hard drive allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden shows the increasingly hazy line between domestic political “dirty tricks” and a foreign-sponsored disinformation operation.

Why it matters: This haziness could give determined actors cover to conduct influence operations aimed at undermining U.S. democracy through channels that just look like old-fashioned hard-nosed politics.