Home > Car Tech, Industry News > Driverless Cars on the Silk Road from Rome to Shanghai

Driverless Cars on the Silk Road from Rome to Shanghai

This looks like it will be a very interesting experiment – green-powered driverless cars.  This summer, Italian company VisLab is participating in the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China.   The project is partially funded by the European Research Council, or ERC, to demonstrate the possibility of transporting goods from one continent to another in new ways, specifically:

– with Green-powered, non-polluting vehicles

– with almost no human intervention

The trip will begin in Rome, and will collect some goods throughout the trip for eventual delivery to Shanghai.  This will be the first trip like this in history.   Here’s a map of the route:

route map for driverless car test Vislab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge

The Vislab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge

From VisLab’s web page about this project:

The idea

The aim is to demonstrate, through an extensive and impressive test, that the current technology is mature enough for the deployment of non-polluting and no-oil based autonomous vehicles in real conditions. Moreover the Municipality of Rome, an active player in  this project, is planning to exploit these vehicles downtown to deliver goods to shops, collect trash, and arrange sustainable mobility in the last mile.

The vehicles

Two electric vehicles will perform a 13,000 km trip mainly powered by solar energy, with no driver; two backup vehicles will be part of the trip as well. As a support, 4 Overland trucks will follow the expedition to provide a mechanic shop, storage, and accommodation; finally two additional trucks will be used for media coverage and will be equipped for live satellite broadcasting.

The cars are loaded with computing power and get continual real-time data about their surroundings through a series of onboard cameras and GPS data.  For this trip, the first car will require occasional human intervention, while the second is planned to be 100% driverless based on line-of-sight data, GPS data and more, some of which will be transmitted from the first car.

There are some videos available on the VisLab website and, though they’re in Italian, you can still get an idea about how it works.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy driving, especially on long, winding stretches of road.  And that holds especially true for a sports car.  That said, moving towards having automated driving in cities could free us up to be more productive during our commute times.  Maybe this is the next step towards the “Johnny Cab” in the Arnold Schwartzenegger Sci-Fi classic, Total Recall? (Careful, there is some strong language in the video that might not be suitable for work).

Maybe one day we’ll have some of these available at our pre-owned luxury car dealership here at Select Luxury Cars?  For a Ferrari or Aston Martin, I like them more old-school – manual transmission, so as to feel more one with the road.  But for a Rolls-Royce or a Mercedes SUV?  Maybe.

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