Delphi automated car completes multi-thousand mile road trip

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If you thought that Google, BMW/Baidu or any of the other number of international technology firms and auto-makers were leaving the UK behind on the race to the driverless car, think again. No, I’m not talking about the ongoing driverless car trials with various UK and international firms, but a real, fully working driverless car that a British firm has been trialling in the US.

Delphi is the company’s name and it managed to heavily modify an Audi SQ5 so that it was able to drive itself almost 3.5k miles between San Francisco and New York. While a person did sit behind the wheel so that occasionally it could make more complicated manoeuvres – around one per cent of the journey wasn’t automated – the car did manage to do almost everything itself, making this one of the largest automated car runs ever.

Most impressively, the modified vehicle was able to deal with a variety of weird and wonderful scenarios, including roundabouts, bridges, roadworks, tunnels and a number of different weather conditions according to the Mirror.

As well as proving that the driverless technology is coming on apace, the trial gave the developers some much needed information about how it performs under certain conditions. One unforeseen problem was that the vehicle’s multiple LIDARs were less effective when the sun was going down and that there were still scenarios where a combination of poor road markings and weather that could confuse onboard sensors.

“The knowledge obtained from this trip will help optimise our existing active safety products and accelerate our future product development, which will allow us to deliver unsurpassed automotive grade technologies to our customers,” said Delphi’s Jeff Owens.

The only thing the developers haven’t mentioned is how expensive an upgrade from standard to autonomous car would be. Its prototype utilises six LIDAR systems, four short-range radars, three visual spectrum cameras and a powerful computing system to handle all of the onboard algorithms that need to be processed in order to automated the vehicle. All of that is likely to be pretty expensive, though whether it will be more than some systems proposed by other companies – which have been around $10,000 per car – remains to be seen.

However much it is though, it’s good to see other developers pushing the envelope and especially so since they’re British.

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.