Cars have been threatening to drive themselves for years now. We've seen the Toyota Prius demonstrating its autonomous parallel-parking skills, the Volvo XC60's feature, and soon -- if Volkswagen and Stanford University get their way -- we'll have an Audi TT that can complete a full rally stage without any fleshy humans at the helm.
The car, nicknamed Shelley, is in the early stages of its development, but it's already completed low-speed trial runs at Pikes Peak and etched the Audi rings logo into the Bonneville Salt Flats with a series of driverless powerslides.
Its real challenge, however, is to run the car, with a 130mph top speed, at close to race speeds across the 20km, 156-turn Pikes Peak Hill Climb at close to race speeds -- while avoiding a sheer 1,415m drop off the side. This is the race, rally fans may remember, in which a race official was killed after being run over during a practice session.
To avoid disaster, the development teams must hope Shelley's Applanix POS LV420 GPS system and Inertial Measurement Unit, modified APA-BS electric power-steering system with drive-by-wire controls, and ruggedised computer running a Core 2 Duo CPU are enough to get her round safely.
It's all very clever and, on the surface, rather unnecessary, but if successful, the research and development that goes into Shelley will filter down to ordinary passenger vehicles that can take care of themselves, and their occupants, in the event of drivers falling asleep or suddenly becoming ill.
You can watch a video of Shelley in action right here: