'Self-driving car' unveiled in Germany

13th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

German scientists unveiled on Wednesday the latest self-driving car, a phenomenon that its proponents say will sharply reduce accidents, help the environment and transform cities.

The car, dubbed the "Made in Germany (MIG)" by its engineers at Berlin's Free University (FU), uses cameras, laser scanners and satellite navigation to "see" other vehicles and pedestrians and deal with traffic situations.

"Cars that use sensors to recognise other vehicles, pedestrians and bikes will in future drive more safely than people, who lose concentration and get tired," the FU said.

The technology will sharply reduce the number of cars on the road, because people will no longer need their own vehicle so much, using instead driverless cars pooled in car-share schemes, the MIG's developers believe.

"Most cars spend 90-95 percent of the time parked on the side of the road ... Our aim is to give back most of the roads back to pedestrians," it said.

"In the future people will wonder why at the beginning of the 21st century we still drove our own cars."

The MIG, which from the outside looks like a regular Volkswagen Passat with a camera on top, was put through its paces at Berlin's disused Tempelhof airport on Thursday, but it has already been tested on public roads.

It is by no means the first self-driving car, however.

US technology giant Google said this week that its driverless cars -- but also with a human inside -- have already travelled 140,000 miles (225,000 kilometres) around the San Francisco Bay area.

Engineers working with both Google and Berlin's FU took part in 2007 in the DARPA Urban Challenge organised by the US government, involving driverless cars developed by 35 teams from around the world.

Prototypes so far have always had a human being inside to take the controls in case something goes wrong.

© 2010 AFP

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