My entire life, I’ve heard of two futuristic cars that would eventually be part of our world. One was the flying car, which Dr. Paul Moller and others are still trying to perfect and get to market.

The other is the car that drives itself, while you sit there as a passenger talking on your cell phone (without breaking some state laws), reading the newspaper, taking a nap, or eating a burger and fries without having to steer with your knees.

That concept took a giant leap towards reality last month in the Mojave Desert. That’s when a team of engineers from Stanford University had a driverless robot car (named Stanley) race through a 132-mile course — without bumping into anything, driving off the course, or turning over.

My curiosity was peaked, so I talked to Sebastian Thrun, head of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, and one of the guys responsible for Stanley. The question is whether Americans would be willing to cede control of their cars to live a real-life version of “Knight Rider.”

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