“Automation may be used in areas such as closed campuses, where speeds are low and there is little or no interaction with other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists or inclement weather,” said Sam Abuelsamid, engineer and expert at Navigant Research.

The big problem is “perception”: the software’s ability to process data sent by the motion sensors to detect other vehicles, pedestrians, animals, cyclists or other objects, and then predict their likely actions and adapt accordingly, he said.

And that part is key, said Avideh Zakhor, engineering and computer science professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

“The perception part is not solved yet. The most advanced publicly available is 80-85 percent (reliable). That means that 15 percent of the time, it’s going to hit objects and kill and destroy them,” she said.