Within the decade smart cars will fill driverless roads

Germany’s Daimler AG plans to start selling a self-driving car by 2020 as part of its campaign to regain the top spot among premium carmakers.  http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/09/08/business/08reuters-autoshow-frankfurt-daimler.html?hp&_r=0  “We want to be the first to launch autonomous functions in production vehicles. You can be sure: we will accomplish that in this decade,” Daimler head of development Thomas Weber said.

The car is said to recognise difficult situations such as dealing with traffic lights or urban driving among pedestrians and cyclists, and hand control back to the human behind the wheel.

Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars, is not alone in its ambitions. Japan’s Nissan, for example, has also announced plans to launch a car completely guided by computers this decade.

Testing is already under way in many countries. U.S. internet search and advertising group Google has fitted out several cars with radar-like equipment that lets them navigate roads in California and Nevada.

The technology will feature at this week’s Frankfurt car show, the world’s biggest, although experts say the move from dream to reality will likely take 10 to 15 years.

German auto supplier Continental aims to enable cars to drive themselves at speeds of up to 30 km per hour (18 miles per hour) by 2016, and at up to 60 km/h by 2020.

Google is reportedly discussing an alliance with Continental on self-driving cars that could be announced as soon as this week.

There’s also the challenge of convincing drivers of the technology, although Georgeric Legros, a Paris-based management consultant with AlixPartners, believes attitudes are changing.

“The slightly macho aspect of cars is gradually disappearing in favour of a more functional, safety-minded image,” he said.

Daimler for instance offers traffic jam assistance, which can maintain distance to other cars in stop-go situations, in its top-line S-Class Mercedes, and BMW will roll this out in its new i3 electric car before the end of the year.

Daimler sees itself ahead in the race to develop robot cars because it says its technology can handle city driving as well as motorways.

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