SAM (detailed in an article here) is Nissan’s way of addressing the limitations of artificial intelligence in cars by allowing a human in a remote command centre to take control of an autonomous vehicle when it gets stuck. Nissan claims that other companies that don’t employ similar systems will never make autonomous cars work.
Speaking at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas today, the head of Nissan’s research centre, Dr Maarten Sierhuis, said it would be almost impossible for autonomous vehicles to exist any other way, for the foreseeable future.
“Show me an autonomous system without a person in the loop and I will show you a system that is practically useless,” Sierhuis told the media.
According to Sierhuis, no artificial intelligence is going to be smart enough to handle the task of autonomous driving in all situations.
“Even a fully autonomous vehicle will not be able to handle every possible situation they encounter, the world is simply too complex.”
He said the use of SAM would allow Nissan vehicles to bring a level of autonomous driving technology to the mass market that would otherwise be decades away.
The ability for owners to have the ‘peace of mind’ that a human is always watching their car's actions so that it never gets stuck or confused, solves a major hurdle for the adaptation of autonomous cars, Sierhuis claims.
Reiterating similar sentiments, Renault Nissan Alliance CEO, Carlos Ghosn, said the reason for human intervention is due to the hard-coded algorithms in a car’s artificial intelligence system which will simply not break certain road rules that are at times necessary to do so, in order to overcome obstacles.
“Humans know how to overcome the [road] rules, at the same time respect them. Computers, for the moment, they don’t know,” Ghosn said.
“No matter how sophisticated the algorithm is, you will always find a case for the car to get stuck. There is always the case where you will need human intervention because the AI today is not at a stage where it can replace the human mind. The objective is to reduce human interface to the minimum number of cases, but we don’t think you can just avoid it. Maybe 15-20 years down the road we can overcome that. I doubt it, I still doubt it.”
Nissan's approach to autonomous driving is in stark contrast to the likes of Tesla’s autonomous systems, which will soon be upgraded to version two, that - like the current system - requires no remote human intervention.