The military was excited about these for many more reasons though: smart mines can hop and sense, and therefore the government could argue they're not land mines, they're smart robots. That means they aren't subject to the international anti-personnel landmine treaties. And since they can move, they're much harder to find and disarm. Great for war. Not so great for cleaning up after war.
Driving a car as we know today could be obsolete in the next 20 years. Presently, manually operating a gasoline engine powered automobile is an integral part of life in North America. Whether you live in a smaller city, or a larger city, such as Los Angeles, without good public transportation, one is expected to drive.
After watching the DARPA Challenge and observing the rapid advances of computing, artificial intelligence and sensor technologies, I see Rosie from The Jetsons being very close to reality. These technologies are all advancing at exponential rates. And exponential technologies can be deceptive. Things move very slowly at first, but then disappointment turns into amazement.
The rules are a good first step if we are to ease very gradually into the world of commercial drone operations: they will be matched one-to-one with operators, and will start out in unpopulated and controlled sites, where bridge inspection, agricultural assay and movie production are all possible applications.