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The self-driving Golf that would give Herbie a run for its money
By RAY MASSEY, Daily Mail 18:00pm 30th June 2006

It has proved one of the most endearing of cinematic legends - a loveable car with a mind of its own that can drive itself.

And for 40 years Herbie - or the 'Love Bug' - as the Volkswagen Beetle was dubbed in its first movie outing - has enthralled millions of families in a series of Hollywood sequels.

But now German car giant Volkswagen has turned fiction into reality by unveiling a fully automatic car which really can drive itself - and at speeds of up to 150mph.

It can weave with tyres screeching around tricky bends and chicanes, and through tightly coned off tracks - without any help or intervention from a human.

The remarkable car is the VW Golf GTi '53 plus 1' codenamed after the number '53' which Herbie carried when racing in his big screen adventures.

The GTi has electronic 'eyes' that use radar and laser sensors in the grille to 'read' the road and send the details back to its computer brain. A sat-nav system tracks its exact position with pin-point precision to within an inch.

The car can then work out the twists and turns it has to negotiate - before setting off at break-neck speed through a laid out course on a test track.

On a race circuit, it drove itself faster and more precisely than the VW engineers could manage - and can accelerate independently up to its top speed of 150mph.

To prove it is no trick, guests were invited to design for themselves a variety of different courses - using road cones - and then watch the car fly around them on its own at a test track near their world headquarters in Wolfsburg in northern Germany.


The astonishing prototype was developed initially to help Volkswagen engineers test their vehicles.

But in an age when rapidly advancing technology and the Big Brother State is increasingly taking responsibility away from the driver - with the onward march of electronic speed limiters, collision avoidance systems, cruise control, satellite navigation, and pay-as-you-drive road tolling - the self-driving robot car is not such a distant prospect.

And many of the elements which make up its engine will be making their way into showroom cars within just a few years - just as sat-nav, collision avoidance sensors and anti-lock brakes have done in recent years.

A Volkswagen spokesman said: 'It really is a self-driving Golf. It steers, brakes and accelerates. And it races through handling courses independently. It can accomplish this at full performance and at the limits of its capabilities.'

'We called it '53' because it is reminiscent of the cinematic Volkswagen bug Herbie, which made history as the first self-driving Volkswagen. This time we've done it for real.'

'The computer calculates where and at what speed the GTi has clearance between the cones. The GPS satellite enables navigation to within less than an inch.'

Not sure I want to be sitting in a self-driving machine going 150mph.

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Remarkable invention and I'm not surprised at all that VW was the first to do it. HOWEVER, I definately would not trust my life in this thing quite yet, give them at least 5 more years to perfect this system and I might be willing to give it a try. Awesome find though!!

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DrJones said:
indygti said:
It would be one helluva ride until the computer decided it needed to reboot at 150mph!! :eek:
Yeah, lets hope it's running an OS a little more robust that fwording Windows.
Let's all hope they never integrate Windows into cars. I think the day they do will be certain death for all of us. Real apocalypse type shit.
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