Let us begin with one key observation: cars are cool. From consumer transportation to manufacturing to childrens' toys, vehicles in their many forms are some of today's most influential machines. Autonomous vehicles are already in use in many manufacturing facilities, and they are also sold as toys. Perhaps one day, the world's highways will be filled with cars requiring no user intervention. While we are not there yet, and may never get there, an autonomous vehicle can serve as a very interesting and practical design exercise.
Our vehicle uses optical sensors to follow a line on the floor. Some autonomous vehicles used in manufacturing use a similar concept, following magnetic strips embedded in the factory floor. The versatility of an optical design should be readily apparent, since re-routing the vehicle requires no more than re-painting a line.