The idea of a driverless car has been kicked around popular culture for years. From the Jetsons television show in the 1960s to the more recent film Minority Report and publications like Electronic Age and Science Digest, at least the idea of cars driving themselves has been talked about for a generation.

But now that technology has caught up to our collective imagination and made driverless cars more than just a concept, the question must be asked: would you “drive” a driverless car? And perhaps more fundamentally, do you think you'll even have a choice in the matter?

On the Verge of a Driverless Car Revolution

Major auto manufacturers and companies like Google are developing driverless car technology and municipalities throughout the country and the world ready to embrace this new change. For example, the town of Milton Keyes in the UK is expecting to implement a small fleet of driverless cars starting in 2015 and the State of Florida is eager to lead the driverless car revolution in the United States. It may not be long until all new cars are available with automated features.

And the technology is hardly vaporware; quite the opposite, it has been proven in the real world. Google's fleet of self-driving cars has logged more than a half-million miles (or roughly the equivalent of a round-trip to the moon) without incident. Put simply, driverless cars seem to be much safer than their human-operated counterparts. The technology has finally caught up with the dream.

There Appear to Be More Questions Than Answers

If there is one thing that could result in the “automated future” failing, it is the human element. It is reasonable to think that driverless cars interacting with other, like-minded automated vehicles will be safe and reliable. But what happens when half of the cars on the road are automated and half of them aren't?

If an individual is in an automated car, does he or she have to wear a seatbelt? Can he or she text, use a telephone, or even drink alcoholic beverages?  If an automated car is involved in an accident with a human-operated car, how is fault determined? What if two automated cars become involved in a collision? Where does the responsibility of the driver end and the automated car begin? How would a driverless ability affect the Kelley Blue Book value of the vehicle? Nobody seems to have a definitive answer for these questions.

With these thoughts in mind, it is not unreasonable to think that as driverless cars become more commonplace, it may be concluded that the human element is simply too dangerous to interject into an otherwise controlled environment. Which begs the question: how long is it until individuals no longer have the option to drive their car at all? After all, driving is a privilege, not a right, and that privilege can be revoked.

Weighing the Risks and Benefits

Before driverless cars become commonplace, the questions raised above will need to be addressed. And yet, the potential benefits of an automated fleet of new cars are not hard to grasp. Driverless cars will be safer, more efficient, and free up leisure time for occupants. Automated vehicles also have the potential to all but eliminate traffic congestion. A fleet of automated cars, each following traffic laws to the letter mindful of every other vehicle on the road, can eliminate such existing risk factors as speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, and distracted driving – all factors in traffic accidents and traffic congestion.

Needless to say, the potential benefits of the extra leisure time that driverless cars afford us are obvious. After all, who wouldn't want to drive to work in the morning while playing on their iPad or taking a little cat nap? In an increasingly fast-paced world, having free time in the morning and evening on the commute home could do much to ease anxiety.

But what are the risks? That in many ways is the one big unanswered question. Can the technology be trusted? If real world experimentation is to be used as a measuring stick, then the answer is an emphatic “yes.” But will that be enough to convince individuals to take their hands off the wheel and rely on a computer to transport them down the highway at 70 mph? And will they want to?