The prospect of seeing self-driving cars on the highway someday soon came into even clearer focus earlier this week, when Google announced its work on an autonomous vehicle thats excludes a steering wheel and pedals. On the heels of that news, Intel is unveiling plans to support projects such as Google's, with a research initiative to explore how drivers interact with their cars and how to best protect connected vehicles from security threats. And the company's not just gathering data about drivers' habits; Intel's working on prototypes for improved in-car systems and even a hardware platform to protect "critical components." After all, few of us would step behind the wheel of a self-driving machine without safety measures in place to prevent it from being hacked and controlled remotely.Announcing research initiatives may seem like a flimsy excuse for news, but the fact that Intel's investing time and money to this tech gives that much more weight to Google's efforts at reshaping the driving experience -- and in the more immediate sense, it will hopefully expedite the adoption of sophisticated in-vehicle systems. In addition to laying out its objectives for in-vehicle experience and safety, the company is launching an In-Vehicle Solutions platform to reduce the cost of installing infotainment systems for manufacturers. Its lineup of compute modules and development kits should also cut down the development time, essentially making it a lot easier for carmakers to add driver-assistance capabilities to new cars. For you, theoretically, that means cheaper prices for the privilege of in-car entertainment, which is still largely the purview of higher-end vehicles.