Swisscom gets into gear with country's first driverless car

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Swisscom has helped bring the first driverless car onto Switzerland's roads, as part of a wide exploration of how the Internet of Things can change society.

The trial was launched last week (4 May) and finishes this Thursday. A VW Passat has been equipped with sensors, computers and software from Autonomos Labs.

The computer drives, steers and brakes the car and uses laser scanners, radar and video cameras to detect nearby vehicles, pedestrians and road users. Bespoke software is used to issue driving commands and analyse data received.

The car has been driven through the streets of Zurich, with a specially trained driver sat behind the wheel in case they need to take control of the vehicle. Swisscom worked with UVEK (the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications) to determine which roads could be used in the tests.

The operator already assesses anonymised location data from mobile phones for the Federal Roads Office to provide prediction reports about traffic. It said another use of the technology could be to head to free parking spaces automatically. This is similar to work Deutsche Telekom has conducted in Pisa.

Swisscom gave no timescale as to when driverless cars would become widespread on the country's roads. It said technology would take control of cars only "gradually", as companies would to improve safety, comfort and traffic guidance.

Google gave an insight into its own driverless car programme when it revealed it had 11 minor accidents, involving no injuries, during the past six years.

Christian Petit, Head of Swisscom Enterprise Customers, said: “Swisscom is not turning into a car manufacturer. But future innovations in the automotive industry will centre on networking with the environment. For this reason, the driverless car is a prime example of digitisation and therefore of great interest to us.”

Elsewhere, the operator is holding tests in Zurich and Geneva on a low energy Internet of Things network, as well as exploring whether a car could be transformed into a mobile office or cinema.

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