The work being done right now with automous cars is absolutely awesome, and I'd say it is about time too as it will save lives, improve efficiency, and help eliminate costs. Indeed, I'd like to take a few moments of your time to discuss some applications which may bring this technology to fruition faster, and allow citizens to watch its value as they come to accept it.
There was an interesting piece on April 5, 2013 in Manufacturing News online titled; "Race To Build Driverless Cars Is In Full Throttle," by Rick Montgomery, reposted from the Kansas Star and I'd say this is good news from a technology standpoint, and good for American companies to be on the leading edge of these future innovations . As we see more autonomous features in our cars; self-parallel parking features, automatic stopping, pedestrian avoidance, and lane departure features it is probably no stretch of the imagination that we could see completely autonomous cars being sold within ten years.
Personally, I think the best place to start with autonomous vehicle technology resides in military convoys, USPS mail delivery, and for refuse or garbage trucks. There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on September 6, 2011 titled; "Garbage Trucks Pick Up Fuel Savings," by James R. Hagerty which noted all of the modern features on today's refuse trucks and how it has saved companies millions in increased efficiencies. Now, then with all this awesome trash picking-up technology, one could ask why we need a driver in the age of autonomous vehicles?
The trash truck can easily identify the trash cans, the sensors can ensure that they are picked-up properly, and we have all the technologies for collision avoidance available, why not start there and with USPS mail delivery. Delivering the mail by robot makes sense also, the vehicle goes to the same homes and puts the mail in the same mailboxes every day, this is the type of repetition that robots do very well, even using older technology, and the AI systems only get better as they are used.
Occasionally, you'll be able to get robotic special delivery where the robot comes and knocks on the door and electronically records the delivery. This would be easy with the next generation of technology once we master the mail. Later, last time I checked the United States Postal Service was really in the red and needed a way to cut costs, well, this sort of automation would definitely help, and Google has the car for them! Please consider all this and think on it.