A group of Italian boffins and techies are planning an epic drive from Italy to China with no one behind the wheel.
While it is not unusual for Roman drivers to take their hands off the wheel, this is usually to wave their arms at other drivers while screaming “cazzo!” at the top of their lungs. The longest that a Roman driver has had their hands off a steering wheel is the time it takes to call Mama to hear how useless they are.
However that is all set to change as the technology for driverless cars is tested. Soon it will be possible for an Italian never to have to drive a car again, which will make the world a much safer place.
The three-month convoy will have to get out of Rome, which is no mean feat. It will then have to travel up twisting mountain passes and deal with Moscow traffic. Russian drivers are calmer than Romans, but have a large number of Mudra to make life really dangerous. From there the next challenge will be the Siberian weather before ending up in the sprawling roadways of Shanghai in October.
The project includes two electric-powered “driverless” vans, each of which will carry two technicians. One of them will always be in the driver seat ready to press the red “porca troia” button to take control should the car’s laser scanners, cameras, and software go tits up.
Each van will work with a manned leader van that will drive ahead and give its driverless counterpart cues on where it’s going next. But the driverless vehicle will be responsible for negotiating traffic and responding to the environment and obstacles around it.
The vans require an eight-hour charge after every few hours on the road, even traveling at speeds between 30-37 miles per hour. Basically it will be like driving to China in a milk float.
The experiment has been hatched out by VisLab which wants to improve its intelligent systems and artificial vision technology.
The idea is that someday 100 percent driverless technology could be used to freight cargo across continents autonomously or to reduce troop risk by running driverless military supply convoys.
This is why it is being financed by DARPA. But armoured cars are the safest way to see Rome.