The road ahead for self-driving cars

The first truly autonomous cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab and ALV (autonomous land vehicles) projects funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US) started in 1984; and Mercedes-Benz, the German Bundeswehr and the University of Munich in the context of the EUREKA Prometheus Project in 1987.

By 1987, ALVs had demonstrated self-driving speeds of 31 kilometers, with obstacle avoidance added a year later and off-road driving in day and nighttime conditions.

A major milestone was achieved in 1995, with CMU’s NavLab 5 completing the first autonomous coat-to-coast drive of the US. Of the 2,849 miles between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and San Diego, California, 2,797 miles (98.2%) were autonomous, complete with an average speed of 53.8 miles per hour (102.3 km/h).