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Italy to China in Driverless Vehicles


unmanned electric-powered orange van

A technician works in an unmanned electric-powered vehicle in Parma, Italy, which has embarked on an 8,000-mile, three-month road trip from Italy to China. The vehicle is equipped with four laser scanners and seven video cameras that work in concert to detect and help avoid obstacles.

Credit: Antonio Calanni / AP Photo

University of Parma researchers recently embarked on an 8,000-mile, three-month road trip from Italy to China to test the limits of driverless vehicles. The researchers developed autonomous cars equipped with laser scanners and cameras that work together to enable the vehicles to navigate. "What we are trying to do is stress our systems and see if they can work in a real environment, with real weather, real traffic, and crazy people who cross the road in front of you and a vehicle that cuts you off," says project leader Alberto Broggi.

The road trip involves two pairs of vehicles, each with a driven lead van followed by a driverless vehicle. The driverless vehicle takes cues from the lead van, but must respond to ordinary obstacles or dangers by itself. The researchers say the project's technology could one day enable driverless vehicles to transport goods across Europe. "We would like now to do a long experiment and try this technology for 24 hours a day, with diverse temperatures and traffic, to see if our systems recognize these situations," Broggi says.

The researchers expect to gather 100 terabytes of data during the road test, which will be analyzed after completing the road test. The vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour and must be recharged for eight hours after every two to three hours of driving.

From The Associated Press
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