But getting the technology right won’t be enough. Governments and courts will have to figure out lots of new legal and regulatory issues. One key question: If a driverless car crashes, who’s liable?

“It’s absolutely the case that after the first accident involving an automated vehicle, there will be an automated ambulance chaser following,” says Robert Hartwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute.

The auto industry is aware of the legal risk. “We have great exposure as an industry in terms of product liability,” says Dan Gage, of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “And I think as an industry … most of us suspect that there will always be someone in that driver’s seat.”