I have a problem. I grew up in sunny California, where nobody walks if they can possibly drive and the roads are so, so very tidy. So for me, the idea of a self driving car is perfectly reasonable. Even on our worst traffic day, the roads in CA won’t kill you. Other people might. There are always the unhappy accidents where attentiveness and physics sit down together and decide to end your days. By and large, however these are not the fault of road conditions (okay, there is that bridge over by Sacramento that freezes over, but that’s a bit fluke-y). So for us, the idea of a car that can help reduce those accidents, that can help drop the number of fatalities due to things like texting, early morning rush hour handjobs, a rock in the windshield, this is going to be a good thing. Because, for us, there is never ever a question as to whether or not road conditions are safe.
But in many many places in the US (and internationally) it’s a valid question. Can a self-driving car be safe under more adverse conditions? Can I hop into my little green Googlecar in the middle of a blizzard and arrive safely (and you know someone will, it’s a robot, if you own a self-driving car, you’re going to be one of those who have an unquestioning faith in technology, the kind of person who will drive into a lake because Apple Maps told you too). Can I rely on my self-driving car to avoid tornadoes? Can my self driving car compensate if the road floods?