German researchers reveal their self-driving car project

Google is not the only one working on driverless cars, even though their research is making the most headlines. Last week, German researchers gave reporters a demonstration of their secretive, self-driving vehicle in Berlin. Much like Google’s approach, the German team is using a 360-degree roof-mounted scanner to identify the vehicle’s surroundings.

Researchers from Free University in Berlin have been working on their prototype, a heavily-modified Volkswagen Passat, for four years. They say that the laser scanner, combined with a GPS system and other sensors, can monitor traffic, sense pedestrians, buildings and other objects from up to 70 meters away, and detect traffic signals with a reaction time that is markedly faster that that of a human.

“There’s a big trend for completely computer-controlled cars – many companies and research centers in several countries are working on it, and it is hard to say who’s got the most-developed vehicle at the moment,” Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, an automotive economics professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told the AP. “Even today’s cars are often partially computer-controlled, for example when it comes to parking or emergency brakes.”

Dudehoeffer predicts that self-driving cars could be ready for production within the next decade. However, they will likely be expensive, so people who are shopping for cars with an auto loan may want to put their dreams aside for the time being and stick with something a bit more traditional.