Tue, Nov 23, 2010 - Page 9 News List

Autonomous cars are fast approaching

By Caspar Llewellyn Smith  /  The Observer, LONDON

It is not only on the battlefield that the advent of autonomous machines seems inevitable. Autonomous cars are years from mass production, but prototypes were being built in Japan as early as the late 1970s, while the EU and the US Department of Defense both invested in projects in the 1980s.

In the mid-1990s, Alberto Broggi of the University of Parma launched the Argo project, which worked on enabling a modified Lancia Thema to follow the lane markings on a motorway. This vehicle managed a journey of 2,000km over the course of six days on the motorways of northern Italy, with the car in fully automatic mode 94 percent of the time.

Earlier this year, Google revealed it has a team working on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software to sense anything near the car and mimic a human driver’s decisions. With someone behind the wheel to take control in an emergency and a technician in the passenger seat, seven test cars have driven 1,600km without human intervention and more than 225,000km with occasional human control.

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