Heater wrote:1) If it screws up the driver is supposed to take over control again ASAP. If not, it's not our fault.
Case 1) seems crazy to me. Nobody is going to sit in a car, carefully watching the road and what goes on for an hour.
The problem is, the public is taking "self driving" as a binary thing - either it's not installed, or the car is a fully autonomous Johnny Cab. When what it really is, is like a minor assist. Calling it "Autopilot" was a foolish move on Tesla's part, because it's a cutesy name but people take it literally. When Apple called their first wireless access points, "Airports", nobody inferred from the name that actual airplanes, runways, and terminals were involved.
When you teach a kid to ride a bike, you don't just sit them on the seat, give them a hard shove, and turn and walk away. There's a lot of careful guidance and realtime monitoring to see that things are working out. The "Autopilot" name, combined with decent initial results under near perfect conditions have led some people to assume that this is a fully capable and debugged feature. It's not. Maybe in 10-20 years. Though I'm sure that some people and companies will claim to have it earlier, I'm just as certain that those folks will occasionally be putting cars into the sides of buses in the next 5-9 years and then saying "oh, well, but that wasn't supposed to happen."
(I remember people in the 80's
saying, "see, we've got voice control working
!" - no, they were getting results that were slightly above random chance - that's not a useful definition of working.)
As to your statement, "Nobody is going to sit in a car, carefully watching the road and what goes on for an hour." That's EXACTLY
driving on a long trip today does. They sit in their car, holding the wheel in basically the same position, and the gas pedal is basically the same position, watching the road, for hours on end. It's drudge work, but we don't trust it to anything less than an adult human at this point.
A logical first step, really, would be dedicated/separated lanes on long inter-city freeways, similar to (perhaps even replacing) today's carpool lanes, that were properly instrumented with embedded machine-readable markers of some sort, so that cars equipped with the proper control computers could communicate with the servers running the "autopilot lane", then enter the lane, chose a destination (that is, when to exit the controlled lane), and have the car completely
take over, working within a known, limited, instrumented environment, driving in front of and behind other computer-controlled cars, which are all continually communicating with the server controlling the traffic in the lane - you could sit back, surf the web for an hour or two, and let your-car-and-the-server do the driving (likely at very high speed) until you were near your destination. If the cars were required to automatically report every exceptional condition to the server (tire pressure falling, engine overheating, gas tank running low, etc.), the central server could coordinate temporarily slowing all the nearby cars while routing the failing car out of the traffic pattern, then bringing the remaining cars back up to speed.
But near term? Fully autonomous? Able to handle every exceptional condition to be found in busy city streets in all weather conditions? Bad idea. Really terrible idea.
As to the comparison to airplane autopilots, the aircraft pilots are still required to pay attention, they are highly trained professionals, and the airplanes are working in lanes that are mathematically defined, miles wide and made out of air, where cars are often within feet of other vehicles, pedestrians and obstructions, in lanes that are ill-defined and constantly changing. It's not really a fair comparison.
As to the original question, "is it possible..." - sure, phrased like that, nearly anything is possible. But highly
unlikely. Start with some MUCH
simpler project first, build your skills up to the point where you can eventually authoritatively answer the "is it possible" question yourself. It's not a short journey, but every step along the way can be interesting and rewarding.