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Driverless vans complete test drive

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Four driverless electric vans, which include solar-powered laser scanners and video cameras, have managed to complete a test drive from Italy to China.

The vehicles, which are expected to help in improving road safety, may also work towards cutting car insurance claims.

The vans successfully completed the 8,000-mile test drive with assistance from the scanners and cameras, which work to detect and avoid obstacles. The sensors facilitated navigation through wide extremes in road, traffic and weather.

The experiment, which also aims to boost car technology, was sponsored by the European Research Council. The information gathered through the study will help experts with further research.

A vision system, called Generic Obstacle and Lane Detector (GOLD), examined the data from the sensors and automatically adjusted the vehicles' speed and direction.

Study leader Alberto Broggi, of Vislab at the University of Parma in Italy, said: "This steering wheel is controlled by the PC. So the PC sends a command and the steering wheel moves and turns and we can follow the road, follow the curves and avoid obstacles with this.

"The idea here was to travel on a long route, on two different continents, in different states, different weather, different traffic conditions and different infrastructure. Then we can have some huge number of situations to test the system on."

© Press Association 2010