By Andrew P. Napolitano
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A pair of fender-benders, two technology-loving hitchhikers and 22 hours blocked at the Russian border. That's the balance sheet so far for a team of driverless vehicles on a 13,000-kilometer (8,000-mile) roadtrip from Europe to China.
A team of Italian engineers last week launched what has been billed as the longest-ever test drive of driverless vehicles: an 8,000-mile, three-month road trip from Italy to China, not in search of silk, but to test the limits of future automotive technology.
It's a modern-day version of Marco Polo's journey halfway around the world _ but is anyone at the controls?
"I'm sure we will arrive to such a technology even if I don't know when exactly," he said.
"This steering wheel is controlled by the PC. So the PC sends a command and the steering wheel moves and turns and we can follow the road, follow the curves and avoid obstacles with this," said Alberto Broggi of Vislab at the University of Parma in Italy, the lead researcher for the project.