The latest chapter in the evolution of the self-driving, driverless automobile has been completed and proved successful with neither an accident or roadway incident during a cross-country trek that involved 15 states and traversed 3,400 miles.
And no, it wasn't Tesla or Google or Mercedes or GM or Ford or even Apple (which is the latest tech company rumored to be building such a vehicle, as Tech Times has reported).
It was auto supplier Delphi Automotive, which apparently has been very quietly advancing driverless technology.
In just nine days Delphi's blue 2014 Audi SQ5 traveled from San Francisco to New York City, only giving the wheel over to a human driver on city streets. The car, built within the past year, passed its big test with flying colors, according to Delphi.
"It was time to put it on the road and see how it performed," says Delphi CTO Jeff Owens. "It was just tremendous." The company noted that the vehicle did 99 percent of the trek in automated mode.
"Along the way, the vehicle encountered complex driving situations such as traffic circles, construction zones, bridges, tunnels, aggressive drivers and a variety of weather conditions," Delphi said in a statement.
Industry watchers say the cross-country trek is a huge advancement in getting such technology on the roads.
"The technology is not what is most notable from this trip," said Jeff Miller, an associate professor at the University of Southern California. "The fact that they drove as far as they did and had a lot of publicity will help the technology more than any programming or hardware on that vehicle."
While Google's been running a driverless vehicle over test tracks and roadways, putting 700,000 miles on its self-driving cars, and Audi just did a semi-long trip, from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, Delphi's feat is the most extensive yet.
The car, according to Delphi, never broke a speed limit, which apparently did not go over well with other drivers during the trek. Owens acknowledges the vehicle was the recipient of a "few hateful gestures."
Delphi put a human driver in the driver's seat during the ride given the test aspect and to work out a few kinks, such as the car not wanting to move into a crowded left lane to avoid a police stop on a road shoulder and edging to one side for some looming semis, as apparently the vehicle shares the same fear of huge tractor-trailer trucks that many humans have.
"The equipment was flawless," said Owens.