In my post last week, my commentors took me to task on my prediction that cars will drive us in ten years. Some thought Americans would wise up and learn to love mass transit. They don't know Americans.
Others thought the hardware cost would even in ten years remain out of reach. Google did not build an autonomous car by creating the hardware but by harnessing and training good machine learning algorithms. No amount of hardware would have given you a car able to navigate the streets of San Francisco five years ago.
What hardware do you need for an autonomous car, beyond the car itself? A good camera, a GPS device, wireless Internet access, gigabytes of RAM and a fast processor. I carry all that in my pocket. Google does use other sensors including lasers and radar but as the algorithms get better, the cost and need for this hardware can be reduced. Wiring the car to drive itself won't be difficult, already the steering wheel and pedals are mostly just a user interface into a computer that is controlling the car.
I have no doubts that technologically we will have autonomous cars in ten years adding at most a couple of hundred dollars over the cost of the car itself.
Other problems could get in the way. One is legal but Nevada is already changing their laws that will allow a testbed for autonomous cars in that state. Once the cars are viewed as safe one would expect the law to expand and other states to open up as well.
The other issue is social. As with every technological change we will have the usual technological life cycle: Innovators willing to pay the big bucks to try stuff first, Early Adopters who love to jump on new technology (where I usually sit), the early and late majorities following the crowd and finally the laggards who still insist on manual transmission and pumping their own brakes.
There are other issues like patents and industries, like auto insurance companies, that will try to fight autonomous cars. Autonomous cars will be too much of a win, in terms of parking, fuel efficiency, shorter and more productive travel time and most of all safety, not to prevail.