An Obama administration official has said that self-driving cars have the potential to save "thousands and thousands of lives." The AP reports that at an industry gathering David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, spoke of his optimism for the technology. The government is launching research into the safety of automatic driving, and has already spoken with automakers and Google about the path to consumer adoption.

"Automated vehicles offer an important and challenging method for reducing crash risk that we believe holds great promise."

Strickland noted that human error played a part in around 90 percent of the over 33,000 traffic deaths on American roads in 2010, and called automated vehicles the "next evolutionary step" for cars. Beyond highlighting the potential for general road safety, Strickland also said that self-driving cars could be a "game changer" for people with physical limitations such as the blind and elderly — something Google recently demonstrated to great effect.