Driverless vehicles travel road to future

Updated: 2012-12-20 07:46

By Wang Xiaodong (China Daily)

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To ensure safety, specialists were in the vehicle and were able to take control of it at any time.

"The driving can be immediately switched to manual mode in case of emergency," Xu said. "When the car was running, it was so steady it felt as though it was driven by a skilled driver. But when it stopped, it shuddered slightly."

Xu said that initially the specialists in the vehicle were slightly nervous.

Wu Shaobin, a transport professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, monitored the entire process in a car behind. "I could see no difference between the vehicle and normal cars with drivers," he said.

Other universities and institutes, including the National University of Defense Technology, are also researching self-driving technology, Wu said.

Several states in the US have issued licenses to allow self-driving vehicles on the roads under strict conditions.

The potential is enormous, Xu said.

Meng Jun, director of the achievement division of Military Transportation University, said although self-driving vehicles can have civilian use they could also be used for the military.

"They can perform in harsh environments unsuitable for humans," he said. "Besides, it is much easier for such vehicles to work in remote areas than in an urban environment."

Although the vehicle performed well on the highway, it still has to be developed before it can work on city roads, Meng said.

"Next we will focus on research so the vehicle can identify signals and gestures by traffic police."

Legal responsibility should also be defined, Xu said. "It must be made clear who should be held accountable if a driver-free car is in an accident," he said.

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