The first wave of intelligent robot cars, capable of understanding and reacting to the world around them, will be tested this November in a competition run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Scientists are developing vehicles which will not only be driven by robots independently, but will be able to operate in a simulated city environment.
"In the past it was sufficient for a vehicle just to perceive the environment, said Sebastian Thrun, an associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford University.
"The new challenge will be to understand the environment. The robot must be able to recognize another car, to understand that it is moving and that it will interact with it as it gets closer."