Self-driving car to make record cross-country trek in the US

An automated car will attempt a record-long drive this month across the US to see how it responds to conditions that have proven challenging for automated systems.

The modified Audi crossover SUV with special cameras, radar and software, will set off near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on March 22 hoping to arrive in New York City during the first week of the New York International Auto Show in April.

The coast-to-coast 3,500-mile drive will test the car in a variety of driving conditions from changing weather and terrain to potential road hazards. It will travel for six to eight hours each day and will be closely watched by a team of engineers from Delphi, the supplier of car electronics, who will be analysing the car’s performance.

Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer, said it was time to broaden the spectrum of tests to help collect data to benefit engineers.

The incorporated safety technologies will enable the vehicle to make real-time decisions like stopping and then proceeding at a four-way stop, timing a highway merge or calculating the safest manoeuvre around a bicyclist on a city street.

Many of these driving scenarios have raised concerns across the carmaking industry about the arguably non-existent safety regulations – at this point – of a sector that is developing at a fast pace. The estimated market value for autonomous cars, if adopted widely, could be up to $60bn by 2030, according to research firm Gartner.

Rapid advances in technology could outpace road safety measures and lead to fatalities and serious injuries if transport officials worldwide fail to understand how the introduction of self-driving cars will affect the liabilities of drivers, manufacturers and insurers.

As E&T news reported earlier this month, MPs warned that the UK risks missing out on the benefits of the multi-billion pound market in smart car technologies unless the government comes up with a comprehensive strategy to address many of these widely circulated issues.

Recently demonstrated on the streets of Las Vegas at CES 2015, Delphi’s automated driving vehicle includes advanced drive assistance systems (ADAS), automated motorway pilot with lane change and automated urban pilot.

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