From a BBC News article here:
"Google believe it is a technology that is here and now and will start appearing in motorcars in the near future," said Professor Alan Woodward from the department of computing at the University of Surrey.
"We already have systems that park your cars for you and automatically brake - the next obvious step is to have cars take over the routine driving.
"Google has funded a lot of this work at universities. Not surprisingly, if they think it is going to be big they want to patent it."