Self-driving autonomous cars aren’t yet a part of our daily lives, but the technology is advancing at a rapid rate — multiple research projects across the world are accelerating in scope and speed, and these vehicles will be starting to hit the road in a few short years.
One of the latest and most ambitious autonomous car trials is about to get underway in the U.S., where a vehicle developed by Delphi Automotive will drive itself from San Francisco to New York (around 3,500 miles in total). A human driver is going to be sitting behind the wheel at all times, but won’t interfere unless the car requests help or has to turn off the highway.
The vehicle itself is a customized Audi Q5 kitted out with laser sensors, radar and multiple cameras, and the journey is expected to take about a week to complete. Trials have already taken place at California and the company previously showed off its work at CES earlier this year. The coast-to-coast road trip — believed to be the longest U.S. journey yet for an autonomous car — is now the next step in developing the technology.
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Delphi’s team say that driving for several hours a day in varying weather conditions will give it a valuable new bank of data to work with. The Audi A5 being used can already merge onto highways, navigate through four-way junctions, and give room to cyclists, though right now the advanced equipment required puts it out of the price range of the average motorist.
The thought of meeting a self-driving car on the highway might be slightly unnerving, but in the long-term these autonomous vehicles should make the roads safer: They don’t get tired, they don’t get distracted, and (with the right technology installed) they don’t make mistakes. They can also react more quickly to a sudden event than a human driver can.
“Delphi had great success testing its car in California and on the streets of Las Vegas,” says Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer. “Now it’s time to put our vehicle to the ultimate test by broadening the range of driving conditions. This drive will help us collect invaluable data in our quest to deliver the best automotive grade technologies on the market.”
The trip gets underway on March 22 and you can follow it via the Delphi website.