Road Testing for German Self-Driving Car

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A self-driving car has taken to the road in Germany, in a hands-free test drive on the busy streets of Berlin. The vehicle made its way through traffic lights and intersections, but had a specially trained driver ready to take over just in case.

Pulling out onto the streets of Berlin - this car can drive itself.

With special permission from traffic authorities, the car, the brainchild of the Berlin Free University made its debut public voyage, joining the more conventional vehicles on Berlin's city streets.

The presence of Tinosch Ganjineh, a specially trained safety officer at the wheel, just in case, was the only condition.

He hands over control to the computer and the car does the rest.

The system relies on a series of sensors, scanners and cameras that make up an electronic image of the road ahead that the car's computer can assess as it drives, controlling direction and speed.

[Tinosch Ganjineh, Road Safety Car Tester]:
"If one of the systems malfunctions, one of the sensors, for example, then I can step in and take back the controls."

The car's been under development for four years - and tested on a disused airfield.

Now, Paul Rojas, professor of artificial intelligence at the university, says it's taken a developmental step forward, offering new, green modes of transport - as either an autonomous taxi or the ultimate car-sharing vehicle.

[Professor Paul Rojas, Berlin Free University]:
"Car-sharing is still a bit inconvenient for some people because they have to go to the station or the car park to pick up the car. This necessity of having to go and pick up the car falls away because the car can now pick me up."

It is not that long ago that the idea of a car that reversed into a parking space on its own was science fiction - it seems that going forward isn't too far off now either.

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