The utopian vision of self-driving cars quietly humming along our roads is nothing new, but much of the work tends to focus on testing a system’s ability to drive a car along a freeway, rather than more tricky busy city streets.

However, Google has just published a blog post describing the work it has been doing on this very problem since August 2012.

The company says that compared to the more open freeways, city roads have “hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area” and as such pose a far greater challenge for the software in detecting and identifying all the different objects at once.

Nonetheless, Google says it can now detect hundreds of objects (“pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn”) simultaneously and that the self-driving car project has logged more than 700,000 miles since it began in 2012.

Check out the video below of the system and software modelling in action. And then wonder how long it will be before cars genuinely need no intervention at all to get you to your destination.

➤ The Latest Chapter for the Self-driving Car: Mastering City Street Driving [Google]