Driverless vans finish epic journey

Four driverless electric vans have avoided car insurance claims and successfully completing an 8,000-mile test drive from Italy to China.

The vehicles are capable of navigating through wide extremes in road, traffic and weather with the help of solar-powered laser scanners and video cameras, which help detect and avoid obstacles on the road.

The vehicles' computerised artificial vision system - GOLD (Generic Obstacle and Lane Detector) - analysed the data from the sensors and automatically adjusted their speed and direction.

The driverless and mapless experiment, sponsored by the European Research Council, is aimed at improving road safety and taking car technology a step further. The data collected by the vehicles on the way will be part of the research.

However, the vehicles did carry passengers for emergency situations and some of the situations they had to intervene in included a traffic jam in Moscow and when the cars approached toll booths.

Alberto Broggi of Vislab at the University of Parma in Italy, the lead researcher for the project, said: "The idea here was to travel on a long route, on two different continents, in different states, different weather, different traffic conditions, different infrastructure. Then we can have some huge number of situations to test the system on."

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