A car held to the road by magnets

Last updated 07:13 13/03/2014
Volvo is looking at using magnets in a bid to create an autonomous car.

GET A GRIP: Volvo is looking at using magnets in a bid to create an autonomous car.

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Volvo has successfully completed an autonomous driving trial using magnets in the roadway to better determine a car's positioning.

Having conducted extensive trials of GPS and camera technology, Volvo admits there are still "crucial" limitations in self-driving cars when factors such as poor weather conditions are at play.

The car maker says road-integrated magnets could hold they key, as they are unaffected by physical obstacles or poor weather.

"The magnets create an invisible railway that literally paves the way for a positioning inaccuracy of less than one decimetre," Volvo's preventative safety leader Jonas Ekmark said.

The research was carried out on a 100-metre test track at Volvo's Swedish headquarters in Gothenburg. With magnetic field sensors installed, road-integrated magnets 20cm below the driving surface gave test vehicles an uninterrupted idea of where they were on the road.

"We have tested the technology at a variety of speeds and the results so far are promising," Ekmark said.

While the magnetic technology might hold the solution to overcoming different driving variables, it will present impractical infrastructure and development costs – particularly on Australia's extensive road network.

"It is fully possible to implement autonomous vehicles without changes to the present infrastructure. However, this technology adds interesting possibilities, such as complementing road markings with magnets," Ekmark said.

Volvo, along with a host of other car makers, plans to make the self-driving car a reality by 2020.

Several autonomous concepts, including a night detection system, are expected to be integrated into the upcoming XC90 SUV.

-Fairfax News Australia

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