So you can have your phablet or your 3D television, all I want for Christmas is an autonomous car. Hell, I'd even give up my smart phone for a car that drives itself. Maybe I'm one of the few in the early adopter stage; that wouldn't be a surprise to those who know I own the first Chevy Volt in Arizona. Maybe I'm just lazy and want to make life even easier on me. Either way, I want it. But I won't be so naive to think that everyone will jump at the chance of buying one. In fact, I don't even think the product life cycle of the self driving car is even worth talking about. When you question whether or not car makers can make it and car buyers will buy it, I think you're missing a lot of the more important aspects of the discussion.
We know we can't always rely on government to do the right thing, so let's turn to the commercial world. Taxis, limo services, shuttles and all sorts of transportation providers should be interested in self-driving cars. The upfront cost may be astronomical to begin with, and some drivers are paid very poorly. But there has got to be some length of time where the self-driving car makes economical sense over paying hourly wages, and that payback period will drop with large contracts and larger volumes in production.
The electric car is great, but it is not a good model to compare future demand for self-driving cars to. The benefits of the electric car are mostly idealized: reducing dependency on gasoline from overseas, reducing pollution, paying less per mile, not having to go to the gas station. These points are hard to defend, when it takes sometimes dirty energy to create the electricity, same of creating the car itself, and the cost of the cars make them less than economical. Cool, yes, but economically sound and environmentally neutral, no. The self-driving car, on the other hand, has much more tangible benefits. People who can't drive can use them to reap the benefits of driving, the safety of the autonomous car's passengers and drivers around it is increased, and intoxicated drivers can get home safely without requiring a cab, to name a few. Thus, the only main stakeholders for the growth of electric cars are the consumers, while the adoption of the autonomous car benefits almost everyone on the road, plus insurers, governments and people who are prevented from driving. This is the angle that should be taken when discussing the feasibility of self-driving cars in the foreseeable future.