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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden-Harris, Day 1: What mattered most

President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrive at the North Portico of the White House. Photo: Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images

The Axios experts help you sort significance from symbolism. Here are the six Day 1 actions by President Biden that matter most.

Driving the news: Today, on his first full day, Biden translates his promise of a stronger federal response to the pandemic into action — starting with 10 executive orders and other directives, Caitlin Owens writes.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Read: Pete Buttigieg's opening statement ahead of confirmation hearing

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, in December. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP via Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to lead the Transportation Department, will tell senators he plans to prioritize the health and safety of public transportation systems during the pandemic — and look to infrastructure projects to rebuild the economy — according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Buttigieg will testify at 10 a.m. ET before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He is expected to face a relatively smooth confirmation process, though GOP lawmakers may press him on "green" elements of Biden's transportation proposals.