Self Drive Car

Reporter: David Eccleston

"This technology is coming, it's a second set of eyes and its going to save lives!" says Cadogan

On a dusty track outside Australia's capital - under the radar and behind the wheel this futuristic car is on track to make drivers obsolete.

"Fully robotic cars are here today in prototype form- and I don't know if I will ever buy one but im pretty sure my kids will have a car that you can press home and it will take you there or office and it takes you there- we won't be driving ourselves in the future." Says Cadogan

It's the most advanced automotive technology money can buy - so clever it can see the traffic in front of you and take control when you don't. Audi boasts the new A7 can navigate through heavy traffic - you won't even need to touch the pedals.

"Adaptive cruise control uses a radar to sense the traffic in front it maintains a safe distance in front and applies the brakes- all i have to do is steer." Says Cadogan

The car scans the road ahead and senses the traffic with microwave radar - which stops you getting too close to the traffic in front - and if the car ahead slows down it even brakes automatically right down to a dead stop. Once the traffic gets going- so does the Audi....all you have to do is steer. Mechanical engineer John Cadogan says some new technologies are just headline grabbing gimmicks but this new adaptive cruise control will revolutionise the way ordinary Australians drive.

"It's extremely clever I mean how frustrating is it for average uses of cruise control in traffic on the freeway you've got to keep turning the cruise off and turning it back on; This is set and forget"

So the challenge is simple can we drive this car from parliament house in canberra 300 kilometres to the opera house in sydney without touching the brake.

We're away....

So here's how it works, when I get to the speed i want to drive at - 70 k's in a 70 k zone the radars active. I can see it on the heads up display it's acquired the red gets in front of us.

Let's just see - first test - red light ahead - so the radar is activated- so the car is going to stop itself - my feet are off its all doing it itself how good is that.

"One of the good things about this technology is it takes tailgating out of the equation" says Cadogan

"What happens if the car in front changes lanes suddenly?" enquires David

"Changes lanes well it will just lock on to the next car straight ahead" replies Cadogan

Robotic cars are here today. Just last year a fully robotic Audi TT climbed the notorious 15 thousand foot summit of Pikes Peak in the United states.....without a human being in sight and the US military is fast tracking autonomous driving

The pentagons mad science agency DARPA the defence advance research projects agency already has robotic cars competing in a challenge every couple of years robotic cars are here now every advance in automatic technology is incorporated and embraced whether we like the idea or not.

"John we've been driving for 240 kilometres and you haven't hit the brake pedal once?" says David

"I haven't touched the pedal once and you know what it's been a very stress free experience because we've never gotten close to the car in front and I reckon this is a potential lifesaver." Says Cadogtan

"As we approach Sydney in heavy traffic a swerving truck proves there's no substitute for human touch."

If I take my eyes off the car and this car detects a truck that's just swerved into my lane it will start applying the brakes and that's a heads up for me - a warning - saying something's going wrong up ahead time to concentrate - JUST LIKE THAT - that truck shouldn't have cut me off but hey we're in the traffic

Even in this hi tech car the driver still needs to brake if there's no one in front and the light goes red. ...three hours down the track we reach our destination.

We made it 300 k's and two touches on the brake pedal, one for a truck driver the system couldn't accommodate and one for a red light just up there

"Going between those two great icons what have we learnt?" David asks Cadogan

"We've leant that you can not be the driver you've still got to drive the car but this is a spare set of eyes on the road and a potential life saver and a stress reducer."

And those people at home they can expect to see this technology in five to ten years in the average car?

"Yeah if you have a mattress full of cash you can afford one today but everyone will be able to buy one in five to ten years time."

We failed though didn't we?

"I don't know if you call it a fail we've just driven three hundred k's we've been safer on the road I'm pretty stress free - that's a good deal."