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Self-driving cars take to Spanish highway
A convoy of self-driving Volvo cars have made their first trip on a stretch of Spanish motorway in normal traffic.
Led by a professional driver in a truck, the convoy of four self-driven Volvo vehicles drove successfully for 200 kilometres outside Barcelona - a world first.
"By adding in wireless communication, the vehicles in the platoon mimic the lead vehicle using Ricardo autonomous control - accelerating, braking and turning it in exactly the same way as the leader," a Volvo spokesperson told the Associated Foreign Press.
The convoy drove at a speed of 85kmh (53mph), and carried passenger and Volvo product manager Linda Wahlstrom - who was instructed to lift her feet from the pedals and remove her hands from the wheel when the car moved into self-drive mode.
"It is quite funny to see the passing vehicles. They are quite surprised seeing me not driving the car but reading a magazine," Wahlstrom said.
"We've learnt a whole lot during this period. People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is that the technology is already here," she added.
"From the purely conceptual viewpoint, it works fine and the road train will be around in one form or another in the future."
Self-drive cars have been in development for several years - motorists and car insurance policy holders can already purchase vehicles with self-parking functions, and Google's self-drive car was also recently granted a driving licence in the United States.
However, Volvo's convoy was the "first-ever test drive of a self-driving road train" when other vehicles have been on the road in normal traffic.
"The project aims to deliver improved comfort for drivers, who can now spend their time doing other things while driving. They can work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch," a Volvo spokesperson said.
"Naturally the project also aims to improve traffic safety, reduce environmental impact and, thanks to smooth speed control, cut the risk of traffic tailbacks."