Self-driving car sets off on American road trip

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Paul Sancya/Associated Press

We've already seen Audi's self-driving RS7 racing around a track – without a driver at the wheel – at the end of last year, but the latest Audi to attempt a road trip has slightly more ambitious plans.

An Audi SQ5, specially modified by tech company Delphi Automotive, is poised to attempt a coast-to-coast US road trip, starting off near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge this Sunday and heading to New York for the opening of the New York motor show on April 5.

This autonomous road trip has been described by Delphi as the "longest automated drive ever attempted in North America", and is set to cover 3,500 miles across the USA, with the specially set up SQ5 mostly driving itself.

This trip will see at least two Delphi engineers in the car, with one sat behind the wheel, just in case anything should go awry. Systems to be tested include camera, radar and laser-mapping systems along with connected-vehicle technology. Functions such as a motorway autopilot with the ability to change lanes, traffic jam assist and automated parking are all to be tested out on the coast-to-coast route, with the expectation that if they are successful they could be rolled out onto production cars within three years.

Chief technology officer at Delphi, Jeff Owens, told the Daily Mail: "'Our view is that the driver is going to be in the seat for a long time," even though the car manufacturers could have the capability to introduce self-driving kit over the next five years. This is all down to the complexity of arming a self-driving system with the know-how to deal with the full range of possible on-road hazards.