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How a robo-car crossed America - almost

2015-04-07 11:43

DRIVING MISS DAISY? The self-drive AudiQ5 took nine days to cross the US. Image: Reuters / Stephen Lam

NEW YORK, US - An autonomous vehicle has completed a 5472km road trip in the US with almost no intervention by a human.

Autoparts supplier Delphi says the Audi Q5 fitted with radar, cameras and laser sensors drove itself 99% of the time during the nine-day trip through 15 states from San Francisco to New York.

Drivers intervened once when traffic was weaving around in a construction zone and again when the car didn't want to move into a busy left lane. But for the most part, it easily navigated bridges, traffic circles and open highways.


Delphi's chief technology officer Jeff Owens says that among other things, engineers saw that vehicle cameras need to be able to read a larger variety of lane markings.

Owens says the data collected on the trip will be used to improve future autonomous driving systems.

An associate professor at the University of Southern California who works on autonomous driving, Jeff Miller said: “The technology is not what is most notable from this trip. The fact that they drove as far as they did and had a lot of publicity will help the technology more than any programming or hardware on that vehicle.”

VIDEO: See the autonomous Q5 on the road

The speed with which the technology has reached this point is stunning. Just 11 years ago at the 2004 Darpa Grand Challenge, the most advanced autonomous vehicles of the day attempted to complete a 241km course.  The best any of them could do was 12km – and that vehicle got stuck and caught fire.

The report said that most of the world’s major automakers are working on autonomous technology, with Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volvo leading the pack.

Google may be more advanced than anyone: the tech giant says its self-driving cars are so far along, they can recognise and respond to hand signals from a cop directing traffic.

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