There is a widespread expectation that autonomous or driverless cars of the sort being developed by Google will soon become commercially available and active on public roads. A recent Slate article makes some strong arguments for why that expectation may be premature:
But the maps have problems, starting with the fact that the car canâ€™t travel a single inch without one. Since maps are one of the engineering foundations of the Google car, before the companyâ€™s vision for ubiquitous self-driving cars can be realized, all 4 million miles of U.S. public roads will be need to be mapped, plus driveways, off-road trails, and everywhere else youâ€™d ever want to take the car. So far, only a few thousand miles of road have gotten the treatment, most of them around the companyâ€™s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company frequently says that its car has driven more than 700,000 miles safely, but those are the same few thousand mapped miles, driven over and over again.
Another issue is what will happen to driverless cars when they get into a situation where they cannot function (say, a construction site includes temporary stop lights, or you turn onto a road which isn’t mapped)? I can’t see passengers being very happy when their car simply won’t go anywhere anymore, and they need to abandon it and find some other form of transport.