Steps are being made towards cars that are able to drive themselves, but how the car companies will get there is up in the air. They might arrive just as much by evolution, with everyday cars getting gradually smarter, as by sudden shifts to fully self-driving vehicles.

Autonomous driving — and its potential for sweeping change — was much on the minds of top auto executives at the Geneva International Motor Show.

The exhibit space in Geneva was mostly used for the show’s primary purpose: showing off product to the news media and the public in order to boost sales. Expensive sports and luxury cars dominated the display stands for the rich and new SUVs for more middle-class buyers.

But the future beyond the upcoming model year was very much a topic of discussion, if less visible on the display stands. Executives think that cars that drive themselves at least part of the time may be upon us by the end of this decade. Technology such as autonomous driving by cars equipped with cameras and radar sensors could blend with Internet connections and apps. For instance, a car could be ordered for a few hours through an app and drive itself to the customer.

Google, meanwhile, is testing completely autonomous cars on streets in Mountain View, Austin, Texas, and Kirkland, Washington.

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