Need a lift? Phone your car and it'll pick you up

BERLIN Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:31am EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German scientists have unveiled the latest in self-driving car technology -- an autonomous vehicle named "MadeInGermany" (MIG), which passengers can even call for a lift.

Computer scientist Raul Rojas and his team at Berlin's Free University (FU) have developed the experimental car which they hope will revolutionize the future of driving.

Passengers can phone their MIG using an iPad or smartphone and the Global Positioning System integrated into these devices reveals the caller's location to the car, which then works out the best route and tells the passenger how long it will take it to get there.

The car's designers say their invention will support environmentally friendly developments by making car-sharing more practical -- if several people are traveling in the same direction, one unmanned taxi can pick them all up.

Optimal use of the technology could see the number of cars in Berlin reduced to one-fifth of their current number, they say.

"With an ordinary mobile multimedia device (iPad) the driver can access all the on-board electronics," a spokesman said. "This opens up entirely new possibilities for operating the vehicle, far beyond the previous ideas of remote control."

Drivers who suddenly decide they want to steer the vehicle via an iPad can turn the automatic technology off and take control themselves.

The MIG uses sensor technology to create a three-dimensional image of the street on the car's computer so that the car is able to detect bikes, pedestrians, road markings and signs.

The technology enables it to respond to traffic lights independently, to give way in accordance with the highway code and to stop in case of unexpected events.

(Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Steve Addison)

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