Prototypes of driverless cars are set to get the go-ahead on a stretch of Germany’s busy A9 autobahn.
In an announcement earlier this week, the government said that it would soon allow robocars onto autobahn A9, which runs from Berlin straight down to Munich, with 529km length. In the beginning, at least, it will involve experimental cars, such as those now in development at Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.
The goal is to network the road and the vehicles to reduce traffic jams and increase road safety. The project would enable cars driving on the test section of the autobahn to communicate with each other as well as with the infrastructure itself. That means cars that think would be running on roads that think—a technological double-header.
The German project will first mean testing sensors, measuring systems and vehicle communication, according to the Transport Ministry. A fully autonomous car probably won’t hit the autobahn before the end of the year. Yet to be announced is exactly where and when the autobahn retrofit will be done and how much it will cost.
For years, the country’s car makers have been developing models with autonomous driving technology —passenger vehicles and trucks that can self-drive in cities and on highways without human interference. Germany’s Mercedes-Benz last year introduced its Future Truck 2025, which can self-drive at speeds of up to 50 mph on highways. While the Audi prototype, the so-called RS7 which has a horsepower of 560, reached speeds of almost 240kph (150mph) when tested on Formula One’s Hockenheim track.