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French self-driving car goes for a spin around Paris monument

Valeo and Safran expect self-driving cars on the roads by 2020, but on the way they must navigate stop lights, pedestrians ... and cannons

  • There may be trouble ahead, but Valeo wants jams to be a source of joy for drivers. In this prototype dashboard display for semi-autonomous vehicles, a summary of the journey appears in the top-right corner. Blue indicates the portion already completed, the exclamation marks in yellow and black bubbles indicate hazards, while stretches with traffic jams are shown not in the usual red but a cheery green. This, the company says, is because the first self-driving cars will be able to take over in slow-moving traffic jams, freeing drivers to do other things, such as listening to music or playing Real Racing 4 on their phone.

  • It's a parking camera on steroids: Valeo's 360Vue 3D processes images from cameras below the grill, under the wing mirrors and in the tailgate to provide a 360-degree view of obstacles around the car. As a bonus, you can spin the overlaid image of the car around until you get just the view you want of that tight parking space before maneuvering.

  • Valeo wants to do away with rear-view mirrors: They take up space, can dazzle at night and guzzle fuel. By replacing wing mirrors with flush-mounted cameras, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 1.3 grams per kilometer, the company says -- a fuel saving of over 1 percent. Its Sightstream system will also give vehicle designers greater freedom, as there'll be no need for windows to give a clear view of where the mirrors used to be.

  • Look, no keys! By replacing existing proprietary wireless keys with ones based on Bluetooth LE, Valeo and Safran are opening the way to entirely keyless cars. This will allow rental companies and car-sharing services to send time-limited keys to their clients' smartphones using an app like this one. The phone needs an Internet connection to receive the key, but with the InBlue system it can then unlock the car even if it's in a basement garage with no network access.

  • Future semi-autonomous vehicles will let us know when they're able to take control, allowing us to engage the autopilot from a control on the steering wheel, much as we engage cruise control today.

  • Look, no hands! That's actually the passenger waving, but the person in the driver's seat of this Volkswagen CC isn't holding on to anything either. It's been fitted out by Safran and Valeo with lidar, radar, all-round cameras and a control system that allows it to navigate autonomously through a simulated urban environment. The companies demonstrated their prototype self-driving vehicle in the grounds of the French National Army Museum in Paris on March 27, 2015.

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