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Citroen car drives 580km from Paris to Bordeaux – unassisted by driver

Another step forwards towards the driverless car, this time in France as a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso drives itself from Paris to Bordeaux.

MOST OF THE PUBLICITY around driving automation comes from Google’s efforts in California, where true driverless cars have been operating successfully for years.  But that doesn’t mean to say that the rest of the world is standing still.  We’re seeing more and more automation – active cruise control, AEB, lane keep assist and much more.  That sort of active technology is, according to Citroen, only Level 2 out of five levels:


Now the company is demonstrating a car at Level 3, which means it is self-driving, but still requires a driver to in effect be ready to take over at any time.  In some ways, it is not a huge step from Level 2 to 3 – I’ve driven cars on freeways in stop-start traffic for many kilometers and only ever needed to steer, and now with lane departure warning and land keep assist even that effort is reducing.  Also, most (possibly all) of that 580km would have been on excellent French freeways, not the back roads which present much more of an automation challenge. 

Citroen say that the “…C4 Grand Picasso autonomously adjusted its speed and changed lanes to overtake, taking into account other vehicles, speed limits and infrastructure.”   The fact it knew how to overtake is a significant difference to the technology available in today’s cars – Citroen could have had the car cruise in the slow lane for the duration which would have simplified matter greatly.  Just another step forwards towards the elimination of the human as a driver, which is coming, ready or not.

Below is a Citroen infograhic showing how the driverless car works:



The key points of a driverless car are:

  • Lots of sensors – cameras, GPS, radars, lidars (light-based radar), sonar, infra red…you name it, the car will have a sensor for it.  The more information the better, and computers can handle lots of data.
  • Car to car communications – advanced cars will communicate with each other to warn, alert and in effect discuss changing road conditions.
  • Infrastructure to car communications – roadsigns, gantrys, bridges..all will have sensors and computers which will exchange data with cars.
  • Personal communications – the car occupants will be monitored via cameras and their smart devices, and that’ll be another source of data.   It is also very likely that people outside the car, pedestrians for example, will be using devices that communicate with cars as they go by. 

Essentially, the world will become one giant, interlinked computing system, everything will be a sensor.  Why do we want this?  Safety is the big answer, but it’ll mean social change on a scale not seen before.  More on that later.


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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper