All of those things you mentioned can be replicated in car auto-drive systems. GPS can be used for “how do I get from A to B” pathing, and cameras, lasers, and other sensor technologies can be used for precise real-time positioning and obstacle avoidance.
To add to that, we can do things that the aviation systems you used couldn’t - you probably wouldn’t have been comfortable with 50 or so F16’s flying in a line, with only a foot or so separation nose to tail while the pilots read magazines, but with instant intra-car communication and coordination, that would be possible, safely, with autodrive cars on the freeway. If the lead car has to slow down, it transmits a signal and all cars brake simultaneously, which is something humans could not possibly replicate as our reaction times would slow us down.
Such systems would eliminate many of the causes of today’s traffic jams. Rather than thousands of selfish humans jockeying for the best position for them, you’d have all vehicles cooperating with each other. A new vehicle needs to enter the highway? Simply make an appropriate hole by slowing the relevant cars down by half a mile an hour, then speeding up again once the new car is slotted in.
Obviously, there will be problems. If the lead car suffers a blowout, the trailing few cars may wreck because of their following distance. The rest of the line can swerve and stop.
But look at what happens now. Drivers playing on their smartphones rear end other cars all the time. That wouldn’t happen with autodrive cars. Drivers maintain their vehicles poorly and cause wrecks all the time. That wouldn’t happen with autodrive cars because they would be programmed to refuse to move if they were not safe for the road. Drivers brake for stupid reasons, or cut each other off for selfish reasons, and cause a ripple effect that ends in a 2 hour traffic jam. That wouldn’t happen because computers wouldn’t be acting like the dumb selfish apes they’re replacing.
Drivers get angry with each other and engage in road rage incidents up to and including shooting each other. That wouldn’t happen because… Well when’s the last time you got enraged at traffic while riding a bus? It’s much less rage inducing to deal with traffic if you aren’t the one having to deal with it.
In short, while there will be accidents, and even deaths, it is entirely probable that there will be far fewer such things with computers running the show than there are now when we humans are in charge.
The aviation example is actually a pretty interestingly relevant one - as you well know with your experience, pilots are much more highly regulated in what they can and can’t do than drivers are. The licensure requirements are vastly more difficult. Pilots in controlled airspace are expected to do what ATC tells them to do. Period. The only exception being if they physically can’t (Piper Cub climb to FL380) or they realize it would be dangerous - as when a controller gives a bad instruction that would risk violating minimum separation, etc.
They don’t get to ignore ATC’s instructions just because they don’t want to wait in the pattern and instead want to land right now, and if they do ignore ATC, they stand a decent chance of losing their license.
Aircraft, too, are highly regulated. You rarely if ever see the aviation equivalent of the guy in the 1978 Buick with the rusted out, twisted frame, blown shocks, and bald tires barreling down the interstate. I see something like that almost every day on the road.
In short, modern aviation is much closer to what a fully computer-controlled driving system would be like, simply because we’ve insisted that pilots bow to coordination that might go against what they really feel like doing.
We’re never going to get people to agree to such a system for driving. Even suggesting that driving tests be harder, or that people should have to be medically certified in order to keep their licenses, is enough to get most politicians voted out of office. But if people were kicking back watching movies or doing work while the car did all the driving, you’d get past all of that opposition and end up with a safer system.
It won’t happen today, or next year, but it will happen, and right now is a great time to be talking about it because it’s going to have a lot of effects, good and bad, on almost every aspect of life.