US robo-car a wonky donkey; China's Hongqi on key

Chinese robot car goes on a 286km cruise but Google's has first prang

Google founders Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin and Larry Page in one of its Prius cars.
Google founders Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin and Larry Page in one of its Prius cars.

China's Hongqi HQ3 driverless car may have succesfully taken itself on a 236km drive without human intervention but Google's unmanned Prius has been involved its first crash close to its headquarters - although the web giant has blamed a human driver for the smash.

According to the China Daily, the Hongqi HQ3 took to the road on 14 July and travelled autonomously 236km on the expressway linking the state capitals of Hunan and Hubei provinces. The trip took three and a half hours to complete.

One of the programme leaders of the Hongqi HQ3, Dai Bin told the newspaper that it also completed the route without the use of GPS, relying an array of sensors and cameras to guide itself. It even managed to overtake 67 cars.

"We only set a maximum speed and then left everything to the car itself," said Bin. "It knew the speed limits, traffic patterns, lane changes and roads using video cameras and radar sensors to detect other cars. It was all controlled by a command centre in the trunk."

"We had fog and thundershowers as well as the complex route and unclear lane markings in some sections," he added. "The driverless car is much safer because it reacts more quickly than humans. It can respond in 40 milliseconds while human needs at least 500ms."

"Some foreign experts asked me directly whether the artificial intelligence system was really developed with our own proprietary technologies, while some humorously asked where the three tiny robots in charge of the accelerator, brakes and direction hid in the car."

Meanwhile one of Google's self-driving fleet of Prius cars has been involved in its first accident in California, close to the company's headquarters.

An eyewitness, Tiffany Winkelman, told NBC in San Francisco that Google's car hit another in the rear and caused a multiple collision involving her own vehicle and two others.

There was "a huge screeching noise," said Winkelman

Although it has been confirmed that the Prius was one of its driverless vehicles, Google said that it was under the control of a driver at the time of the accident.

A Google statement said that: "Safety is our top priority. One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car."

Nevada approved the use of driverless cars, the first state in the US to do so, in June after successful lobbying by David Goldwater, a lobbyist bankrolled by Google and based in Las Vegas. He told the Nevada State Assembly that the cars are more fuel-efficient, lower road congestion, increase economic development and reduce injuries and fatalities.


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