Completely automated, driverless cars are a dream that is not likely to become reality.

driverless cars

Driverless cars: Human discretionary variables replaceable by computers

There are human discretionary variables that cannot be easily replaced by a computer, random multiple input scenarios that require human relative value thinking to make the appropriate decisions. “Driverless” driving in the rain or snow, for instance, presents unpredictable variables that don’t coalesce with rigid if-then computer logic and its predetermined universe of situational variables.

While the hype machine surrounding autonomously driven vehicles has kicked into high gear recently – Google claimed it would develop autonomous taxis and Nissan promised an autonomous car by 2020 – the reality may be more down to earth says Will Knight, MIT Technology Review’s online editor.

Driverless cars: Nissan’s goal

Knight says Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:NSANY) (TYO:7201)’s reported goal regarding “autonomous driving” is more likely to include a heavy dose of human supervision and intervention.  He says that a driverless car isn’t likely to involve total control of steering and breaking 100 percent of the time.  Rather, it is likely to mean automation some of the time – highway driving for instance – but likely with a human supervising and having the ability to take control when necessary.

“No-one I’ve spoken seems to believe it’s yet possible to make a car capable of constant, full automation,” he writes. “If Nissan were actually able to deliver that, then I’d say the hype may well be justified.”

Google to produce driverless cars on its own

Knight also takes on the notion Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) will produce a car on its own, as has been speculation in some corners. Rather, he says Google is more likely to develop a collaboration with a firm such as Continental that currently provides automakers pre-crash sensors and other driver assisting technologies such as blind spot detection, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

Building a car on its own would be “a colossal undertaking, even for such an ambitious company; and it’s experience with electronics hardware hardly seems like sufficient preparation for a leap into the immensely complex and high-risk world of automotive manufacturing,” he writes.

As the world of technology moves to replicate the human brain, perhaps it is best and most significant to note the areas where computers might not be able to meet the required challenge.