Jay Leno: The ignition key will be gone in 20 years and cars will drive themselves

This is why Jay Leno owns and drives a Tesla
This is why Jay Leno owns and drives a Tesla

Comedian and former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno knows a lot about cars. One of his very first jobs was at a Ford dealership, where he worked as a the "lot boy," he tells CNBC Make It. A few years later, when he was trying to break into comedy, Leno supplemented his stand-up gigs with money he made working at a different dealership.

These days, he hosts the CNBC show "Jay Leno's Garage," in which he searches for unique vehicles and the stories behind them.

The car connoisseur has some predictions about how people will drive in the future. For starters, the ignition key "will be gone in 20 years," Leno tells CNBC Make It. "You'll just get in your car either through your phone or some electronic device. It knows it's you and you pull away, much like Tesla does now."

Jay Leno is all smiles as he tears across the water in … a car.
Source: CNBC

And eventually, self-driving cars will become the norm. "It's not like all of a sudden people flip over to self driving cars," he notes. "But it's the same thing that happened when anti-lock brakes came out: People said, 'I don't want some computer doing the braking in my car. I want to step on my car.' Or power steering: 'I like to feel the road. I'm not going to get power steering.' Well, all these things eventually become — well, they just get adapted to cars and you sort of move on."

In general, "you will do less and less in your car," says Leno.

He also predicts that any sort of "exotic car," like a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati, "will become like snowmobiles or what any recreational vehicle is today. During the week, you use some sort of electric, hybrid thing to get you around because it's so crowded you can't go fast anyway. Then, on the weekends, you enjoy your sports car, the way people would any other recreational vehicle."

With change comes pushback, he says, but that is consistent across all industries: "I can remember when Barney Clark, who was the world's oldest living heart transplant, got a heart transplant. People were protesting: 'You're taking the heart from one man and putting it in another. It's the work of the devil. It's a horrible thing.' Now heart transplants are as common as any other kind of medical procedure. So I think it just takes a while, but eventually it becomes evolutionary."

CNBC's " Jay Leno's Garage " airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET.

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Here's what Jay Leno spends his money on for fun
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