A PSA Peugeot Citroën driverless vehicle has journeyed 580 km (360 miles) on the motorway from Paris to Bordeaux entirely in autonomous mode. Automatically maintaining its speed to the road conditions and traffic, as well as independently changing lanes to pass slower traffic, the Peugeot Citroën completed the journey without incident and demonstrated the increasing viability of driverless motor vehicles.

Motoring to Bordeaux to participate in the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress (5 to 9 October), the car was in attendance to show off PSA Peugeot Citroën’s new autonomous technology along with its newly-developed car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication systems.

The on-board sensors and car and infrastructure communications demonstrated are claimed to provide a raft of safety features, including pedestrian awareness and collision avoidance from information transmitted by cars ahead and via dynamic road signs designed to deliver tailored messages to drivers.

The autonomous vehicle itself contained a vast array of on-board systems, including radar, automated braking, steering, and acceleration, GPS, and digital cameras, to name but a few. All working in concert with the master electronic control unit – and monitored remotely by a Peugeot Citroën control center – the autonomous vehicle is designed to be safer than driver-only vehicles, where hazards such as fatigue and human error are a major factor in collisions.

"The journey made by our prototype today proves that autonomous vehicles are no longer a matter of science fiction," said Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the managing board of PSA Peugeot Citroën. "This ushers in a new era of mobility, which I find truly exciting."

Much like the Mercedes-Benz autonomous truck recently tested on a stretch of Autobahn in Germany, the PSA Peugeot Citroën vehicle was permitted to drive on the highway with stringent protocols in place. With a driver ready to take control at any time, the vehicle's degree of autonomic control was set at what is known as "Level 3"; where the the vehicle is able to accelerate, brake, steer, and control the vehicle.

Peugeot Citroën also included what it calls the Scoop@F system, which allows not only for the autonomous controls and mechanisms mentioned earlier, but a range of more intuitive vehicle controls. Such things include adaptive cruise controls that manages vehicle speeds as standard systems do, but also allows for upcoming traffic light changes, hills, obstacles, and traffic flow via intrinsic communications systems collecting data from other vehicles and traffic infrastructure.

Unlike many autonomous concepts, however, PSA Peugeot Citroën says its vehicle will be fully-capable of "Level 5" autonomous control (subject to legislative approval) in the not-too-distant-future.

Slated for release to the public by 2018, Peugeot Citroën customers will be able to purchase vehicles fitted with all the features demonstrated in this most recent test run (aka "Level 3") which, the company believes, will greatly enhance customer safety by relieving the driver of fatigue from the tedium of long-distance driving or inattention.

The short video below shows some of the progress toward the autonomous car from the point of view of PSA Peugeot Citroën research.

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