CES 2014: BMW shows off 'drifting' self-drive cars

BMW's promotional video of its latest autonomous driving technology

BMW has shown off self-driving cars that can "drift" around bends and slalom between cones.

The modified 2-Series Coupe and 6-Series Gran Coupe are able to hurtle round a racetrack and control a power slide without any driver intervention.

Using 360-degree radar, ultrasonic sensors and cameras, the cars sense and adapt to their surroundings.

BMW demonstrated its latest autonomous driving technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

It is just one of several car manufacturers experimenting with the technology - Japan's Toyota has also been demonstrating its autonomous car at CES.

And Bosch, better known for its white goods and power tools, showed off its smartphone-controlled self-parking technology at the show.

Accident-prone

With about 50,000 road fatalities in the US each year, carmakers are hoping sensor- and software-controlled cars could prove less accident-prone than cars driven by humans.

BMW power sliding The driver isn't touching the pedals or steering wheel as BMW's self-driving car controls a power slide at race speeds

One 2013 study by the Eno Center for Transportation suggested that if 10% of cars on US roads were autonomous this could reduce fatalities by about 1,000.

A number of driver assistance technologies are already being incorporated into the latest cars, from lane-drifting warnings to self-parking.

Currently California, Florida and Nevada have licensed autonomous vehicles to be tested on their public roads, and Google's fleet of 24 robot Lexus SUVs (sports utility vehicles) have clocked up about 500,000 miles of unassisted driving so far without any reported mishaps.

Autonomous vehicles are not yet allowed on European roads and we are still a long way from seeing driverless cars frequenting our streets and motorways.

But as the number of successful demonstrations grows, the cultural hurdles are probably greater than the technological ones.

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