Engineers at Nissan have developed a new technology that they say can help solve the problem of human beings delaying to retake control of self-driving cars under dangerous circumstances. Dubbed, Smart Autonomous Mobility (SAM), the new technology is akin to what happens when flying aircraft are controlled by human operators located in flight control centres.
According to Maartin Sierhuis, the director at the Nissan Future Lab in Silicon Valley, the essence of the new technology it to solve the problem that is experience in managing driverless cars in which the human driver fails to respond quickly to critical situations.
‘A remotely located person guides the car through difficult situations that humans can manage to navigate the car better than what the autopilot can do,’ he said.
SAM seems to come at a time when many car makers are grappling with the need to solve technical navigation issues related to developing fully driverless cars.
Many companies have been attempting to perfect the technology that is used to drive cars so that they eliminate the need of having a human driver as a backup solution for the car. In general, leading car makers such as Tesla have only managed to develop cars that, observers rank as falling at stage 3 of a scale from 1 to 5, with stage 5 cars being entirely autonomous.
Some companies are still playing at level 2, a stage at which a car, such as the 2017 Mercedes E-Class Sedan, autonomously performs many non-core functions. Essentially, all the cars that fall at this stage have what, by today’s standards, are sophisticated driver assistance systems.
However, experts have raised concerns about the ability of SAM to achieve its intended objective. Iad Rahwan who teaches Artificial Intelligence Interaction at MIT, argues that as much as the new technology may appear to be superior to what current car models use, it may take some time before the technology becomes commercially available.
‘The society is usually biased towards news of an accident involving a self-driving car,’ he says.
This obsession of the society with news about road crashes involving self-driving cars is likely to be a double-edged sword for the new technology. On the one hand, public concerns about the level of safety for self-driving cars are likely to make SAM a better alternative. On the contrary, it is necessary for the company to do more research to convince other players that the technology can work on a large scale.