writes "Autonomous cars are years from mass production, but technologists who have long dreamed of them believe that they can transform society as profoundly as the Internet has. Now the NY Times reports that Google has been working in secret on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver. With someone behind the wheel to take control if something went awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light."
Update: 10/09 22:37 GMT
: Reader harrymcc points out that the dream of self-driving cars is nothing new: "Both Popular Science and Popular Mechanics have regularly reported on such experiments; I rounded up some examples dating as far back as 1933