This article by Jerry Hirsch tell us that, with a boost from new California legislation, self-driving cars are not terribly far away. The hope is that the cars will make driving easier and promote consumer safety:
Having a hard time parallel parking? Press a button on a touch screen and let the car park itself. Want
to stay a safe distance from the car ahead while traveling 65 mph?
Switch on adaptive cruise control and let a radar-linked computer handle
the accelerator, slowing and speeding your vehicle to keep pace.The
assisted-driving technologies that just a few years ago seemed so
futuristic are already here, bringing the auto industry one step closer
to a George Jetson-like world where drivers may no longer have to drive.
Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that establishes a regulatory framework for allowing self-driving cars on California roads. The push to build a self-driving car is a joint effort between Google and Cal Tech (along with other organizations). Google co-founder Sergey Brin says that “[t]hese vehicles have the potential to avoid accidents.… We can save
lives, create jobs and reduce congestion. I expect that self-driving cars will be far safer than human
The California legislation is known as S.B. 1298. You can read the whole bill, as signed by Governor Brown, or go to the bill's home page, which provides links to all versions of the bill as it progressed through the California Legislature plus a nice abstract of the bill's provisions.