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Germany to Test Self-Driving Cars on Public Highways

January 30, 2015

Many self-driving cars are being tested on public roads, and soon, some will be cruising along high-speed highways. It was recently reported that autonomous cars would eventually make their way to the autobahn, with the green light coming from the German government.

According to Motor Authority, the German government is working on a pilot testing program for autonomous vehicles. If the plan pushes through, the vehicles will be tested on a part of the A9 autobahn, which links the cities of Munich and Berlin.

The prototypes to be tested will reportedly adopt a system similar to the vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology undergoing testing on public roads in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The cars will drive on their own by getting information from (and giving information to) other self-driving units as well as infrastructure. The first to be tested are the sensors and other necessary features for the V2V system.

The German government did not set a starting date for the pilot program, but the self-driving prototypes are not expected to make an appearance at the designated section of the autobahn until 2016.

This could be the first time Germany is actively participating in the autonomous car movement through its own testing program, but this is not the first time an autonomous vehicle is traveling on German roads. Mercedes-Benz was the first to test a self-driving car on a public road—in 2013, its S500 Intelligent Drive prototype (pictured) underwent testing, traveling the distance between the city of Mannheim and the town of Pforzheim. The car drove about 60 miles, though with some human intervention.

Autonomous car testing has expanded to different parts of the world. Testing used to be concentrated in the United States, particularly in California, where automakers and Google test their self-driving cars. In September, Volkswagen AG’s Audi was the first to obtain permission to test self-driving cars in the public roads of the Golden State, and Mercedes-Benz followed suit. Meanwhile, BMW decided to bring its autonomous car testing a long distance away from its luxury rivals, choosing China as its testing site.

BMW started testing its self-driving cars in Germany but opted to expand its program to China. The global luxury sales leader chose to do testing in the world’s largest auto market so it can take into account structural challenges not found in Europe, such as multi-level highways. The testing will be done in Beijing and Shanghai.

Last month, the United Kingdom named the four locations that will serve as testing grounds for different autonomous vehicle programs.

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