Hm, wouldn't all three problems be effectively solved by some sort of datalink between vehicles? That way, cars in front could notify ones in rear about road signs, bad traction, roadside activity, and all - without major infrastructure upgrade and using tech we actually developed (say, WiFi).
No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't warn of sudden appearance of pedestrians running into traffic, or animals doing the same.
That's one reason I was curious about the range of the sensors. Can it see a kilometer or two? If so, it's going to be detecting things about as well as a human driver, except that it has fewer/no blind spots. But can it anticipate?
If I see kids playing right next to the road I might slow down considerably, but not so much if it's adults standing around talking. Can this software make that sort of judgement call?
If the car ahead of the driverless car spins out on, say, a snowy road how well does it react to that emergency?
Of course, there would still be issue about cars driving alone - but then, maybe some sort of repeater stations holding info from past cars could be fitted into roadside lamps?
That only works where there are roadside lamps.
It may be that initially driverless cars are an urban feature so that would be a minor point, but traveling long distances in rural areas means roads that are pretty minimal in many ways, including handy infrastructure to hang repeaters off of.
As for other situations... Maybe just have 'caution' button operated by passenger forcing the car to slow down, along with 'panic' button for actual emergencies forcing the car to stop?
That kind of gets away from the idea of the car not needing a driver. And if you think people are distracted NOW, wait until they don't need to steer anymore.
The panic button makes sense - in a way, we have the start of that with services like OnStar
. The "slow-down" button less so, because very shortly the passenger behind the wheel of a driverless vehicle is going to stop paying much attention to the road - after all, that's the car's job, right? You need a system with some judgement ability.