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Look, No Hands! X-Country Road Trip In Self-Driving Car Takes Off From San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – Peace and love, rock and roll – lots of cool stuff takes off from San Francisco. Now, what could be the coolest road trip ever traveled, will take off from The City, and it's leaving in a self-driving car.

An Audi Q5, outfitted with laser sensors, radars and multiple cameras will set off on a 3,500-mile journey on March 22. When it arrives in New York after a little more than a week, it will have set a North American record for the longest automated road trip ever made. The world record was set in Italy back in 2010, when a self-driving van journeyed 8,000 miles from Europe to Shanghai. That trip took 3 months.

Michigan-based Delphi Automotive developed the car. The company is careful not to call it driverless, because a person will be sitting behind the wheel, but they won't touch anything unless there is a situation the car can't handle. Experts say consumers should not expect a truly driverless car for at least a decade.

Unlike similar autonomous cars developed by Google, Toyota and others, the Audi Q5 looks pretty pedestrian. Its sensors are hidden, tucked away in the front, rear and sides. The company brought one to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, last January. Spectators were impressed when the car braked itself during a demo after 2 drunk pedestrians fell in front of it.

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Toyota's electric automated iRoad. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Delphi has been working on automated vehicles since 1999. The SF-NY road trip will provide valuable data to help them make a better, more affordable vehicle.

Today, the price tag on an autonomous car is out of reach for most consumers, but this technology will become more and more affordable down the road. Delphi estimates that by 2019, the cost to make a car fully autonomous will be about $5000.


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