Watch Renault’s self-driving car dodge obstacles like a pro racer

It might at first glance look as if the car is being driven by a maniac trying to escape from law enforcement, but it’s actually far more impressive than that.

The speeding vehicle in the video above has no driver at all, and is responding automatically to obstacles suddenly appearing in its path.

Renault says the technology, which it unveiled on Tuesday, is the first of its kind that’s able to handle “challenging” driving scenarios, adding that its obstacle avoidance capabilities can perform “as good as professional test drivers.”

In fact, such pro test drivers, which Renault describes as “the best of the best,” served as an inspiration for the technology showcased by the car, a modified Renault Zoe called Callie. It certainly looks very effective in the demonstration video.

Renault’s technology is the result of a collaboration between its Open Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley and nearby Stanford University.

Describing Renault’s latest efforts in the self-driving space, Simon Hougard, director of the Open Innovation Lab, wrote in a post: “Despite all the recent technological improvements, in some challenging scenarios humans can still compete with many of today’s autonomous driving systems.”

He went on: “This is why we test against professional test drivers. To our engineers, they are an inspiration and a benchmark, teaching us new ways to think about a problem, and setting the bar on the performance we need to demonstrate.”

If autonomous vehicles are ever going to become a regular feature on our streets, this kind of high-level performance is absolutely vital for passenger safety, and could also save the lives of people, or indeed animals, that suddenly find themselves in the path of a driverless car.

Hougard said that thanks to Renault’s strategic alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi, more than 50 different vehicle models, which currently have different levels of autonomous driving capability, could incorporate elements of its latest technology to improve their safety in extreme driving situations.

France-based Renault and its two Japan-based partners are aiming to launch 10 autonomous cars by 2020. The plan is to release the vehicles in stages over the coming years, with each one increasing the level of autonomy. In 2020, it hopes to introduce a car capable of driving itself fully autonomously, though initially this is likely to be at slower speeds.

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