Asked by: Greg Smith, Manchester
The best driverless cars, such as Google’s Waymo, are aiming for level 4 autonomy – this means they will take over driving in certain locations under certain weather conditions. To achieve this, cars have sensors such as LiDAR (which pulses lasers at objects and measures reflections to calculate their distances) in addition to GPS, inertia measurement, radar and cameras. Even if the driverless cars could detect potholes – which may not be possible in all weather conditions – it may be dangerous for them to avoid them, so it is more likely that they will simply drive slower. Recent reports suggest that our entire road network may need to be upgraded at a cost of billions, otherwise driverless vehicles may all be forced to crawl along in ‘proceed with caution’ mode.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.