By Chris Adams

Self-driving cars aren’t a thing of the future anymore – they’re here already. Cars can park themselves, stop themselves and negotiate complex city grids themselves.

But, as of now, the government is still figuring out how to regulate them. And the public – well, the public is wary.

That was the assessment of three experts brought together by the National Press Foundation to discuss the promise and the pitfalls of what are variously known as “self-driving” or “autonomous” cars. In the video, a representative of the federal government, an industry group and a consumer advocacy organization talked about the current state of self-driving technology, as well as the safety of the cars.

Blair Anderson, under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, detailed a recent guidance document the DOT and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put out to steer federal regulatory efforts on self-driving cars. Getting ahead of the technology is a big push by the Obama administration, and the president himself weighed in on the effort in a recent op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Those federal efforts were criticized by Joan Claybrook, a longtime president of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen and also a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Claybrook said regulatory efforts were too controlled by industry, not transparent enough and not strong enough to adequately guide emerging self-driving technology.

Paul Brubaker, president and CEO of The Alliance for Transportation Innovation, a trade group that represents technology companies, detailed the state-of-the-science on self-driving cars, as well as challenges that remain to make the cars as ubiquitous as some futurists expect.

One challenge is the public, which so far has been skittish about technology that would result in driverless cars barreling down the highway. One recent poll, from the motorist group AAA, found that only oneinfive Americans would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself.

Other resources:

The DOT and its rulemaking process, including access to comments from the public and interest groups.

A study by the RAND Corporation about the difficulty of comparing the safety of self-driving cars to human-operated ones, and a letter from Claybrook and other consumer advocates summarizing their views on the federal efforts to regulate the technology.

An analysis by Brubaker’s group that details eight challenges to widespread adoption of the technology.