Scientists in Germany unveiling the latest self-driven car Wednesday said the days of humans behind the wheel are numbered and that their technology can slash accidents and help the environment.
"In the future it will be forbidden for safety reasons for people to drive cars," predicted Raul Rojas, professor at Berlin's Free University (FU). "The cars of today are the horses of yesterday."
"In five to 10 years the technology could be applied in private areas like airports, factories or warehouses. On motorways ... in 10-20 years," Rojas told reporters. "In cities the obstacles could be removed in 20-30 years."
The car, dubbed the "Made in Germany (MIG)" by the FU, uses cameras, laser scanners, heat sensors and satellite navigation -- even in tunnels -- to "see" other vehicles and pedestrians and respond to traffic lights.
The technology will sharply reduce the number of cars on the road because people will no longer need their own vehicle so much, using instead driverless cars pooled in car-share schemes, the MIG's developers believe.
"Autonomous cars are the real 'green' cars," Mexican-born Rojas said. "We could use a fraction of the cars that we now have. "If China and India want the same level of mobility as us, then the world is not big enough. The only real solution when it comes to sustainability and preserving resources is car-sharing."
According to the World Health Organisation, more than a million people are killed in road accidents worldwide every year and 50 million more are injured. Driverless vehicles can slash this, their proponents say. "Cars that use sensors to recognise other vehicles, pedestrians and bikes will in future drive more safely than people who lose concentration and get tired," the FU said.