Car prepares to drive itself 3,500 miles across U.S.
Car prepares to drive itself 3,500 miles across U.S. An autonomous car from Delphi drives on Treasure Island in preparation for a cross-country trip from San Francisco to New York City (Reuters / Thinkstock)
Car prepares to drive itself 3,500 miles across U.S.
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Call it a preview of the cross-country road trip of the future.

An autonomous car developed by Michigan-based auto supplier Delphi Automotive will soon make a 3,500-mile journey across the U.S. A person will sit behind the wheel at all times. But that person won't touch it unless there's a situation the car can't handle.

The car will mainly stick to highways.

Companies both inside and outside the auto industry are experimenting with similar technologies. They take more and more responsibilities away from the driver, right up to the act of actually driving the car. Most experts say a true driverless vehicle is at least 10 years away.

Delphi plans to show off one of several versions of the car. It is an Audi Q5 crossover outfitted with laser sensors, radar and multiple cameras. It will be at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The official car will start its journey March 22 in San Francisco. It is expected to arrive in New York a little more than a week later.

The autonomous Audi has been warming up for its long journey. It has racked up lots of miles tooling around Delphi's office. That's in California's Silicon Valley. The car also took a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Delphi showed off the car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. During a demonstration, the car braked by itself, just like it was supposed to, when two men fell into the street in front of it.

Delphi executives say driving the car for six to eight hours per day on various roadways and in different weather conditions will give them valuable data. With it, they can help improve the technology. Engineers will also look for ways to make drivers and passengers more comfortable with the idea of autonomous driving.

"We're going to learn a lot out of this," said Jeff Owens. He is Delphi's chief technology officer.

Delphi officials believe the upcoming road trip is the longest automated drive ever attempted in North America. In 2010, the Italian company VisLab took a driverless van on an 8,000-mile, three-month journey. It went from Europe to Shanghai, China.

Delphi's autonomous vehicle looks like a regular car and not a science project. Anyone who looks at driverless cars developed by Google, Honda and others, immediately notices the circular, spinning sensor on top. It scans the surrounding area with lasers. The technology is known as lidar. Instead, Delphi tucked six lidar sensors into the car's front, rear and sides. And because lidar sensors don't work well in heavy snow or rain, the car has six radar sensors that can also detect road obstacles. The car also has cameras throughout. One even watches the driver.

Delphi says the vehicle is capable of making complex decisions. For instance, it can stop and then proceed at a four-way stop. The car can time a merge onto the highway or maneuver around a bicyclist or a trash can. When it wants the driver to resume control, it uses a verbal warning and flashes lights on the dashboard.

Owens won't say how much its autonomous prototypes cost. But for now, this technology is expensive. Lidar systems can cost upward of $70,000 apiece.

Doug Welk, an engineer in the company's automated driving program, said the cross-country drive will help Delphi figure out the best combination of sensors. The information ultimately will help to lower costs. Delphi estimates it will cost around $5,000 to make a vehicle almost fully autonomous by 2019.

Owens said Delphi has been working on automated driving since 1999. That's when it first started putting radar sensors on cars. Now, 2 million cars are outfitted with those sensors. They are used for adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and other features.

Fully autonomous driving could come over the next decade or two, Owens said. Driverless cars are even further away. But in the meantime, Delphi sees autonomous features, like pedestrian detection or vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, as a way to drastically cut the number of traffic deaths worldwide.

"This technology can make a serious impact on those statistics," Owens said. "The car is not distracted, even if the driver is."

Critical thinking challenge: Why is it important to make drivers and passengers more comfortable with the idea of autonomous driving?

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Assigned 123 times

  • brandkelly
    4/02/2015 - 09:22 p.m.

    In this article you in about a car that is playing to make a trip of 3000 miles across country but with out a driver this car was made by Michigan auto factory and the factory is planning for her to travel across the country with no one touching the wheell I think that it is cool

  • JohnL-4
    4/02/2015 - 09:59 p.m.

    A Delphi car from Michigan will make a 3,500 mile journey automated unless the driver needs to take control for any reason. It will be equipped in an Audi Q5 with lasers, cameras, and sensors. The car will start its journey in San Francisco on March 22, and will arrive in New York slightly more than a week later. This will be a valuable experiment to test the safety of autonomous cars today. Many new cars now have sensors that allow them to do certain functions such as adaptive cruise control and automatic breaking. I think self-driving cars are extremely awesome, and once they are perfected in a few decades, the roads will become much safer.

  • joellep1
    4/02/2015 - 10:35 p.m.

    A car designed by Delphi Automotive is preparing to make a 3,500 mile journey across the US. There will be a person in the drivers seat but they will only touch the wheel of there is something that the car can't handle. The main purpose of this experiment is to see how the cars with no person in control will be able to drive. These cars are designed to drive without someone controlling the car, however if you want to, you can drive the car. The car has already done a practice and gone from San Fransisco to Los angles. Now it is preparing to go all the way across the United states.

  • ChaseG-5
    4/03/2015 - 02:41 a.m.

    This article is about a Delphi car that is planning on traveling across the United States. It is a driver less car that is in experimenting. Delphi cars look like regular cars because they have no antenna sticking up. I think this article is interesting because it is the future of America automobiles. I also think it's a great idea and will prevent car accidents.

  • CarsonP-2
    4/03/2015 - 10:35 a.m.

    Technology is so amazing! This car can travel by itself without anyone driving it. Now this car is about to travel 3,500 miles!! This car can also stop by itself if theres someone crossing the street.

  • DunhamS-4
    4/03/2015 - 11:18 a.m.

    This article was a bout a car that can drive itself across the country. It is set to leave San Francisco on March 22 and arrive in New York less than a week later. The cars name is Delphi. Companies are making it so that people nowadays don't ven have to drive their cars it's all autonomous.

    • landenaoly2005
      4/09/2015 - 02:06 p.m.

      this article is about a car that can drive its self but honestley i boubt it can go that far. it would be really cool if it could tho

  • benjif-2
    4/03/2015 - 11:24 a.m.

    In this article a car is going to do a cross country adventure trip of the future. A self driving futuristic car is about to drive 3500 miles automatically cross country. This is very cool thing.

  • ksadat-5
    4/03/2015 - 04:01 p.m.

    A self driving car will be making a three thousand five hundred mile journey across the United States. Even though the car is able to drive on its own, a person will be behind the wheel to make sure nothing goes wrong. The car is designes by Delphi Automotive and will be mainly driving on freeways, highways, and main roads. Driving the car will provide vital information to improve the technology for a self-driving car.
    This is an amazing breakthrough in the technological department. If this trip is a success, they will make history for inventing the first self driving car. Not only will they be able to improve it, but it makes life much easier for people who drive a lot.

  • Matthewd-4
    4/03/2015 - 06:39 p.m.

    It's cool that now with all the new technology we can make a car that can drive itself. It's gonna go 3,500 miles across the U.S. by itself. There is going to be a person behind the wheel invade something goes wrong but it will be driving itself for most of it.

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