German scientists see golden future for 'self-driving' cars

Scientists in Germany unveiling the latest self-driven car Wednesday said the days of humans behind the wheel are numbered and that their technology can slash accidents and help the environment.

"In the future it will be forbidden for safety reasons for people to drive cars," predicted Raul Rojas, professor at Berlin's Free University (FU). "The cars of today are the horses of yesterday."

"In five to 10 years the technology could be applied in private areas like airports, factories or warehouses. On motorways ... in 10-20 years," Rojas told reporters. "In cities the obstacles could be removed in 20-30 years."

The car, dubbed the "Made in Germany (MIG)" by the FU, uses cameras, laser scanners, heat sensors and satellite navigation - even in tunnels - to "see" other vehicles and pedestrians and respond to traffic lights.

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.

"Autonomous cars are the real 'green' cars," Mexican-born Rojas said. "We could use a fraction of the cars that we now have.

"If China and India want the same level of mobility as us, then the world is not big enough. The only real solution when it comes to sustainability and preserving resources is car-sharing."

According to the World Health Organisation, more than a million people are killed in road accidents worldwide every year and 50 million more are injured. Driverless vehicles can slash this, their proponents say.

"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 car has more information at its disposal than a human does now. A person can only see in front. This car can see in all directions at a range of 70 metres (yards)," said Rojas.

Auto industry analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer agreed that the technology could help reduce accidents if it comes to fruition but he is sceptical about the benefits for the environment.

"The various pilot projects around the world look interesting but it remains to be seen whether they will really turn out to be reliable," Dudenhoeffer told AFP, adding: "Climate protection is secondary."

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.

A human being was inside - but only for if things went wrong. Nothing did, with the car stopping while a couple with a pram crossed the road, or steering around a parked car - all without human intervention.

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

Scientists at Germany's Braunschweig last week demonstrated a driverless car called "Leonie" in real traffic conditions, while other road tests have been conducted in Italy and elsewhere.

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.

"Back then it was just a competition in California. Now it's a global race, and this time on real roads with a much greater degree of complexity compared to 2007," Rojas said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

    £30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

    Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

    £30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

    Account Manager, London Bridge

    £30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

    Graduate / Trainee Recruitment Consultant - IT

    £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Orgtel are seeking Graduate Trainee Re...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on