But in academia, an autonomous car project at Stanford University seems far from cautious, at least on the surface. Stanford's Marty autonomous 1981 DeLorean can abruptly apply brakes and swiftly cut engine power, according to the university.
Results from speed and accuracy testing could be used to develop features to make autonomous cars safer, according to Chris Gerdes, a Stanford University professor of mechanical engineering.
"I think that these technologies, the sort of insight that we get from driving at the limits really can get out into safety systems in the nearer term. But since this is a research project, we expect that you'll probably not see the impact of this out on the road for a least another five to seven years," Gerdes told CNBC.