Depending on your point of view, autonomous cars are either long overdue or a technology to be avoided at all cost. We see both sides of the argument, but a recent patent secured by tech giant Google may mean the best of both worlds.
U.S. patent number 8,078,349 describes a vehicle that can switch from regular human-operated driving to autonomous mode at the push of a button. Sort of. First, the operator needs to direct the machine to a predefined "landing strip." There, a "reference indicator" (think of something like a QR code affixed to the road) would combine with GPS coordinates to allow the vehicle to know its exact location.
Naturally, there's a ton of technical mumbo jumbo in the patent, and if you're game, you can read all about it here. As pointed out by ConceivablyTech, Google is packing plenty of uber-smart star power behind this technology, so we wouldn't be at all surprised to see cars autonomously taking occupants on short trips within a relatively short period of time. Just so long as we can switch it off when the roads get good...