The Grander Challenge
The winners of last year's Pentagon-sponsored robot race have been given a higher bar to hurdle --- develop a vehicle that can drive through congested city traffic all by itself. They "will have to navigate a complex 60-mile test course designed like a real city street filled with moving manned and unmanned vehicles ... make sharp turns, navigate traffic circles and avoid obstacles such as utility poles, trees and parked cars ... obey traffic laws, change lanes, merge with moving cars and pull into a parking lot using only their computer brain and sensors."
The technical name for it is the 2007 Urban Challenge "which is also known as the DARPA Urban Challenge, will take place on November 3, 2007. The location of the event is not announced until the qualification process is complete. The course will involve a 60-mile urban area course, to be completed in fewer than 6 hours. Rules will include the obeying of traffic laws while negotiating other traffic and obstacles and merging into traffic." A PDF describing the event can be found here.
If this technology ever proves out we can have self-driving vehicles that will essentially function as chauffeured vehicles. You probably wouldn't need to know how to drive to own a car. This would benefit the elderly and the infirm and probably increase the utilization of existing vehicles to make it possible for a two car family to make do with one, simply because the vehicle can be on the road when one passenger is spending time at a destination. Of course it would also give a wholly different meaning to the words "VBIED", but sigh, there's always the good with the bad in technical progress.