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

Peter Sayer | March 30, 2015
For this self-driving car, the roadside hazards included traffic jams, undisciplined bystanders -- and centuries-old cannons.

"CarPlay will be limited in the number of applications you can use and in its interface, because it's designed to be used while driving," he said. Instead, he said, Valeo expects self-driving cars to connect via interfaces developed for home entertainment systems, such as AirPlay, Chromecast and Miracast.

Safran and Valeo also showed other technology they're developing for future vehicles, including a Bluetooth locking system ideal for car rental and sharing, a precision inertial guidance system for when GPS is unavailable, and some disappearing side mirrors.

The side mirrors didn't actually disappear, but Valeo hopes one day they will. By replacing bulky, unaerodynamic mirrors with cameras that lie almost flush with the car body, automotive manufacturers can cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1.3 grams per kilometer. That's a savings of around 1 percent on the average emissions of new vehicles today, and a step towards the European Union's target of average emissions of 95 grams per kilometer for new vehicles sold in 2020. Other benefits of the system include improved visibility at night, with better contrast and no dazzling reflections, and in rain: With the display inside the car, there's no need to look through a layer of raindrops on the window, and potentially another layer beaded on the mirror.

The most distracting exhibit, though, was a reversing camera on steroids. The camera — actually four cameras, under the front grill, the two side mirrors, and in the tailgate — provides an all-round view of the car on a dashboard display. This in itself is not new, but the way Valeo processes the images is unusual. In addition to the "top-down" view of the car's immediate surroundings found on some high-end vehicles today, Valeo has added a bowl view, showing more distant objects compressed into the edges of the image, and a remarkable "virtual reality" view. This overlays the scene with a 3D image of the car, which can be viewed from any angle, simply by touching and dragging. As it spins, the backdrop of its surroundings moves too, allowing the driver to size up that narrow parking space thoroughly before maneuvering.

Of course, they could just hit the auto-parking button and let the car figure it out, but where's the fun in that?


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