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Vauxhall leads on hands-free driving

Vauxhall has announced that its 2008 Vectra will be capable of piloting itself at speeds of up to 60mph in heavy traffic without any input from the driver sitting behind the steering wheel, in a move that the firm claims will make driving safer and more relaxing.

Advanced gadgetry will allow the car to complete all the steering, acceleration and braking manoeuvres needed to navigate main road traffic jams while the driver sits back and relaxes.

Called Traffic Assist, it uses laser beams, a video camera and computers and is unique in being able to ‘see’ signs and bends as well as lane markings and vehicles to keep the car in the correct position on the road while it maintains a safe distance from traffic in front.

Designed to lift the GM subsidiary’s profile in the business car sector, the revolutionary gadgetry is set to become available on more models by the end of the decade as Vauxhall strives for greater market share.

In a move demonstrating the Luton firm’s desire to leapfrog Europe’s premium sector brands in the fast-developing high-tech race, it is aiming to sell the package at prices only 50% higher than those charged by competitors for conventional ‘active cruise control’ radar equipment, which controls distances but cannot steer.

And the Vectra will also be the world’s first to boast a DualView LCD display that shows TV or video films to passengers while giving route guidance maps and navigation instructions to the driver.

But the fact that it is being developed for launch on the Epsilon II platform means the Traffic Assist and DualView technology will also be embraced by the Saab 9-3 replacement.

Bruno Praunsmandel, GM Europe advanced electronics engineering chief says: "Both innovations have never been available before.

"We’re aiming to show we can play a leading role in integrating new technology in our vehicles."

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