Self-driving S-Class car arrives

Image copyright AFP

New self-driving driverless cars from Chinese robot taxi firm ride-hailing firm BlaBlaCar are starting to leave the test track.

A Mercedes-Benz S-Class with the technology is expected to go into commercial service shortly.

BlaBlaCar, the world’s biggest taxi-hailing service, said in January last year that it would offer self-driving cars by 2020.

It is not the first firm to offer such technology.

Nico Hines, who researches driving-related issues for the British RAC Foundation, told BBC News that the new technology was vital to the driverless revolution.

He said: “The driverless car has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives by not wearing out tyres on the road and saving lives by taking cars off the road at congestion times or when people are in and out of work and school.

“These things are worth the investment.”

The new S-Class comes with two versions of the BlaBlaCar driverless robot.

One uses an upgraded version of the company’s mapping system, the BlaBlaCar Compass, and the autonomous driver runs via a base station with a telematics system and wi-fi network.

“Cars will also have in-car telephony and they’ll be able to exchange information with other vehicles on the road in real time. The system will also be able to locate other cars on the road,” said a company spokesman.

Three other BlaBlaCar vehicles will test autonomous driving technology later this year on an existing Los Angeles test track.

“We work closely with carmakers from Audi to BMW, to Google, to see if BlaBlaCar cars can enable automated driving capabilities,” the company spokesman added.

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