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Continental receives license to test driverless cars on public roads

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Automotive supplier Continental has received Nevada's 'Autonomous Vehicle Testing License,' which allows the firm to test driverless vehicles on state roads.

The license is the first issued by the Nevada DMV to an automotive supplier, and means that the firm now has state approval to test its autonomous cars on standard roads after completing driving demonstrations in Nevada, U.S., earlier this month.

The firm's car features a red license plate and an "infinity" sign that the company touts as a way to "represent the car of the future," as well as be recognizable to the public and police agencies. The infinity symbol is only usable for the public testing of automated driving vehicles.

Continental's car has all the usual features, from a steering wheel to dashboard, and has been designed so a driver can keep an eye on the car's course -- therefore, if something goes wrong, the owner can jump in and correct the path. The car also comes with a number of customized sensors, radar and cameras. By continually scanning its course for objects, the car sends data to its engine, brakes and steering to avoid collisions or accidents.

The prototype has logged over 15,000 miles so far -- on non-public roads -- and is built primarily with components already commercially available.

"This vehicle demonstrates what modern technology can do to provide a safer, more comfortable drive. Earning this license represents an important intermediate step towards automated driving for Continental," said Dr. Peter Rieth, Head of Systems & Technology in Continental's Chassis & Safety Division. "Continuing our research and testing in the most challenging environment –- public roads -- will allow us to continue to assess and develop our highly automated vehicle."

The firm hopes it will be able to develop the first commercial applications for fully automated driving by 2020 or 2050. Continental says that the concept of completely automated driving is valid but "not fully viable" yet, but Continental will continue its "real world evaluations" of the car to see if partially-automated systems can be used in stop-and-go scenarios, such as traffic crawling on highways at low speeds.

Image credit: Continental

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— By on December 20, 2012, 6:37 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure