“THIS IS IT!” Maarten Sierhuis says. “I mean, look at this.” He points to a photo of road construction at an intersection in Sunnyvale, California, near Nissan’s Silicon Valley research center, which Sierhuis runs. A line of cones shunts traffic to the left side of the double yellow line. The light is red. A worker holds a “Slow” sign. It’s the sort of seemingly unremarkable situation that can trigger convulsions in the brain of an autonomous vehicle.
“There is so much cognition that you need here,” Sierhuis says. The driver—or the car—has to interpret the placement of the cones and the behavior of the human worker to understand that in this case, it’s OK to drive through a red light on the wrong side of the road. “This is not gonna happen in the next five to ten years.”