Advertisement

“Why self-driving cars will need human back-up”

Self-driving cars are on the way, but deputy editor John McIlroy thinks they will never be truly autonomous

Opinion - autonomous cars

When autonomous cars really do allow us to take our hands off the wheel, will they really be able to cope with every on-road situation? This was one of the topics raised last week during a fascinating day of presentations on the future of the car, organised by the Financial Times.

One of the event’s most interesting presenters was Maarten Sierhuis, who leads Nissan’s research centre in Silicon Valley. You might expect someone who once wrote software for NASA to be a firm believer in artificial intelligence and processor power. But in fact, Sierhuis and his team argue that a key feature of autonomous vehicles will be the ability for them to call on a human for back-up.

Advertisement - Article continues below

All you need to know about self-driving cars

In the end, the relationship may be similar to the one between jet airliners and air traffic controllers, who can provide guidance and transmit instructions to the crew and, in many cases, the plane itself.

In Sierhuis’s vision, if a self-driving car – like the Leaf prototype that demonstrated Nissan’s Seamless Autonomous Mobility earlier this year – comes across an obstacle it doesn’t know how to deal with, it’ll beam information and images back to a command centre for a human being to examine.

The operator can then ‘paint’ a suitable course of action on to a high-definition map and send that back to the car – as well as any other autonomous vehicles in the area, allowing them to be better prepared for the same scenario. “It’ll be impossible,” Sierhuis says, “to have autonomous vehicles driving around without them ever needing help.”

It sounds clunky, and a little less sci-fi than what’s been promised so far. But this grounded approach is likely to reassure anyone who’s had misgivings about how this bleeding-edge tech can ever be phased into roads that still regularly throw up the unexpected.

Are you looking forward to the arrival of truly autonomous cars? Let us know below...

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/news/352004/advice-around-what-we-should-do-during-and-after-we-drive-our-cars-less-clear
News

'The advice around what we should do before, during and after we drive our cars is less than clear'

Only essential driving during the Coronavirus lockdown is allowed, but what we need to do before, during and after our journey isn't as clear, says Mi…
5 Apr 2020
Visit/news/351989/its-car-care-week-so-head-outside-and-show-your-motor-little-love
News

‘It’s Car Care Week, so head outside and show your motor a little love’

If you can’t drive your car, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks you should wash it instead. When you're done, send us a pic and we’ll print the best
1 Apr 2020
Visit/news/351950/global-temporary-shutdown-car-factories-could-actually-benefit-manufacturers-and
News

'The temporary shutdown of car factories could benefit manufacturers and customers'

With car factories around the world closing temporarily, it may give manufacturers the chance to clear out the current backlog of unsold new cars, say…
28 Mar 2020
Visit/news/351936/jlrs-very-british-approach-keep-calm-and-carry
News

‘JLR’s very British approach: keep calm and carry on’

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler praises Jaguar Land Rover on both its ability to handle a crisis
26 Mar 2020

Most Popular

Visit/mazda/mx-5/352010/new-mazda-mx-5-2020-review
Mazda MX-5

New Mazda MX-5 2020 review

The popular Mazda MX-5 has been updated for 2020, but with the changes comes a jump in price
5 Apr 2020
Visit/seat/leon/351998/new-seat-leon-2020-review
SEAT Leon

New SEAT Leon 2020 review

The all-new SEAT Leon hatchback impresses with its blend of sporty handling and cutting-edge technology
3 Apr 2020
Visit/car-group-tests/352006/kia-soul-ev-vs-mg-zs-ev
Car group tests

Kia Soul EV vs MG ZS EV

The second-generation Kia Soul EV faces the value-for-money MG ZS EV in an SUV shootout
4 Apr 2020