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.

If the stars are aligned and the moon is in the seventh house everything is found to be in working order, Google could send the car directions on where to go and how exactly to get there.

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...

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