Self-driving cars are still years away, but technological advances are making vehicles safer and more personalized right now. Here’s what that means for the industry.

If you’re on the streets of Northern California in the next few months, you might pass a tiny car that looks like a kid’s toy. It may be cute or creepy, depending on your perspective, but to some it’s a vision of the future: a Google-made, self-driven car.

But even as the idea of a Jetsons-like future dominated by robotic cars enthralls the media, that potential reality is at least a decade away. Meanwhile, the auto industry has undergone a less whimsical but far more sweeping shift, from the business of metal bending to the business of chips and sensors.

This revolution is still young. As technology seeps into every facet of a vehicle’s makeup and production, the industry faces new and unprecedented challenges. Today’s auto-industry executives must connect Silicon Valley and Detroit, as well as address entirely new dimensions of safety concerns, such as how to protect their customers’ privacy and data.

Detroit moved beyond traditional assembly-line manufacturing a long time ago. General Motors introduced OnStar, which provides a way to contact the police or fire department in case of an emergency and unlock your car at your request, in 1996.

And it’s no longer just high-end cars that offer things such as collision-avoidance systems, blindspot detection and automatic braking. Cars including the ʼ14 Chevy Malibu and Mazda3 come with high-tech safety features and price tags below $30,000. It’s rare to see a new car on the market today that doesn’t feature Bluetooth technology that allows drivers to make calls and stream music through the vehicle’s speakers.

The technological revolution has been a boon to the auto industry. The market for smart-vehicle systems is expected to reach $22 billion by 2020 as consumers increasingly demand – and expect – their cars to be sophisticated tech hubs. Roughly 55% of buyers will walk away from a car if it doesn’t have the technology they want, according to the Connected Vehicle Trade Assn. That’s a big change from just a few years ago.

As the industry continues to evolve, here are four challenges to watch for:

The Culture Combination

If vehicles are going to integrate the most advanced technologies, car companies need to work with the brightest tech minds. But so far, it hasn’t always been a comfortable collaboration. Silicon Valley and Detroit are two very different places.

There are the obvious differences, such as the weather. But there also are deep cultural differences.

The auto industry is a deliberate one, with a focus on safety and quality that requires extensive planning and testing. It can take years to bring a new car to market, and the average U.S. consumer keeps his new car for more than five years.

Both the tech industry and its consumers move much faster. New hardware and software products can get to market in a matter of months, consumers expect a steady stream of updates and improvements, and they’re willing to abandon a months-old product the moment something better comes along. Tech workers expect to be nimble and make quick changes as technology and consumer demands evolve.

That poses a serious problem for human resources as OEMs look to hire tech talent. And while the stalwarts of Silicon Valley might not want to move to Detroit, many see the auto industry’s potential.

Apple has partnered with Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes on CarPlay, which will deploy the iOS operating system to let drivers control navigation and entertainment from their iPhones. Intel is working with Ford on things such as an interior camera that will recognize the driver and a system that unlocks cars with smartphones.

The two cultures are slowly learning to work together and understand each other. Ford, Mercedes and BMW all have outposts in Silicon Valley, while companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Google have made pilgrimages to Detroit. They’re learning they might not be as different as they thought.

After all, Detroit was the original hub of industrial innovation, and the Silicon Valley attitude of constantly looking for new and better ways to create value for consumers is equally embedded in the auto industry’s DNA.

Long Lead Time

On average, it takes three years to design and build a new car, and that car will stay on the road for roughly 11 years. While no one expects to install technology that will last a decade, car manufacturers do want to make sure that when a car hits the market, it has the most up-to-date technology possible and can interact with systems that will be around for years to come.

The industry is finding ways to make car technology as intuitive and easy to use as the devices people carry in their pockets – and as reliable as a car that starts every time.

However, in a 2013 survey, Consumer Reports found 60% of respondents had trouble figuring out how their in-car entertainment systems worked, and one-third experienced problems with voice control or touchscreens. If people are having similar problems with an app, a technology company quickly develops and pushes out a patch or update. Right now, that’s not possible with most cars, so there is still room for further development to gain a competitive edge in the auto industry.

Keeping Data Private

In the not too distant future, we’ll all be able to take road trips and depend on our cars to tell us when we’re near our favorite chain restaurants, how much gas costs at the next exit and whether the sprinkler system has turned on back home.

But for all of this to happen, the computers in our cars are going to have to know a lot about us and transmit that information outside of the car’s computers.

Although people make privacy tradeoffs every day in the name of convenience (services such as Gmail are free because Google is allowed to collect information about users and share it with advertisers), there’s something about that data being collected by a car that makes people nervous.

According to a recent survey from McKinsey & Co., 45% of new-car buyers in the U.S. say they are reluctant to use connected services because of privacy concerns.

To make buyers feel more comfortable, OEMs are working on ways to let drivers manage what data is being collected and how it is used. The automaker that finds the best way to balance collecting data with ensuring privacy will be in a prime position with buyers.

Keeping Data Secure

As technology improves auto safety, the industry must find ways to keep those systems secure.

Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology have the potential to vastly reduce collisions, as cars talk to each other and warn drivers when there’s an icy patch ahead or another car stopped just around the curve. But this also poses a data-security risk, one that is more immediate and visceral than privacy invasion.

According to the McKinsey study, 43% of new-car buyers say they are worried hackers will tamper with their brakes or safety systems.

NHTSA is working on a set of rules to make connected-vehicle technology as secure as possible. Established legal standards dictating who is responsible in an accident may be challenged when a crash is caused by the way a car reacts to a communication from another vehicle or with the infrastructure.

All of these challenges will have to be addressed long before we start thinking seriously about mass-marketing self-driving cars. In the meantime, thanks to technology, drivers will see cars that are safer and offer more convenience and entertainment options than ever before.

Brendan J. Cahill is the director of Dykema’s Automotive Industry Group.