These cars, you will recall, have been under development for years.
And now they have passed a battery of tests set forth by Nevada, including:
Combined driving time of 10,000 miles
Submission of a description of the self-driving technology
Submission of safety plan
Submission of plan for hiring and training drivers (who are supposed to be unnecessary)
If the cars pass these tests, the operators are given fancy red license plates. And then they're free to self-drive.
So are self-driving cars for everyone just around the corner?
Unlikely. But they don't seem nearly as far-fetched now as they did a couple of years ago.
We've long since gotten used to the idea that computers can fly our planes, take our photos, and manage our communications, and at some point, we'll probably get comfortable that they can drive our cars.
But before we get comfortable with that, there will undoubtedly be setbacks. And a few of those setbacks, presumably, will be accidents.
The moment a self-driving car gets in an accident, even if it's the other (human) driver's fault, there will probably be a general freak-out about the technology, and a whole new round of tests to ensure that the cars are safe.
Eventually, however, self-driving cars will probably become, if not the norm, common. And they'll probably make a lot fewer mistakes than humans do. Computers, after all, don't drink and drive, experience road rage, or fall asleep at the wheel.