The Google StreetView database has already been largely completed. Google co-founder Sergey Brin has predicted self-driving cars will be a technical reality within five years. Costs will need to decline for special equipment such as “lidar,” which uses lasers and pulses of light to detect objects, to make them affordable.

Digital strategist Chunka Mui is co-writing a book, “The New Killer Apps,” warning auto companies, insurers, dealers and lawmakers of big changes coming to the auto industry. “As Kodak, Blockbuster, Borders and scores of other former market leaders have learned, incremental thinking can leave huge openings for bolder companies willing to pursue new killer apps, like Google,” he wrote in an online series on self-driving cars for Forbes.

There are many issues to be solved before fully self-driving cars are available, but the technical issues may be the easiest to resolve. Legal uncertainty, including about liability for accidents, is more vexing.

There is enormous potential in terms of safety and reduced travel time if we can manage to graduate from horseless carriages to driverless cars. The shift away from humans being fully in control will take time, but if governments don’t stand in the way of innovation, we will some day look back on people driving cars being as quaint as horses powering our transportation.