When a Google car sees a new permanent structure such as a light pole or sign that it wasn’t expecting it sends an alert and some data to a team at Google in charge of maintaining the map. [...] The car’s video cameras detect the color of a traffic light.
As I said, the cars themselves help map the terrain, so it's not like they can't see what's around them and operate independently or rely on maps in the cloud. And luckily, stoplights don't appear overnight. It would be easy for the city to work with the Google to incorporate road changes and construction zones (or for the city to maintain the maps themselves).
Snow and ice are definitely serious issues though. Right now that means in certain types of weather, you'll just have to drive yourself.
And these are today's cars - not cars 10 years from now. Go back and look at where they were in 2004, and I'm not too worried that these issues won't be overcome.
The processing is not handled in the cloud. Each car is capable of driving using only its sensors and onboard computers. The cloud helps with maps and directions but isn't required.
They can also recognize stoplights, but maybe not a police officer's hand signal - but that's a problem that's easily solved.
And the areas may be mapped out - but they're mapped out by the cars themselves. Any area where self-driving cars spend any considerable time would also get mapped out in great detail. It's one of those situations where the more it's implemented, the better it works.
You are putting the delivery mechanism over the content and assuming all content is equal. It's not. The content should be what's important - not the means by which it's delivered, which should be irrelevant.
If you truly want to vote on the delivery mechanism with your wallet, then the same content needs to be available on multiple delivery mechanisms so you can actually vote on the mechanism you want for that content.
Otherwise, you're restricting your own choice of content based simply on the way it's delivered. You're the one that suffers, and you'll never find a large enough mass of people that care more about the mechanism over the content for you to make a financial difference.