A team of intrepid software engineers are out drive a full 8,000 miles from Italy to China in an autonomous electric van, all while going no faster than 37 mph. Talk about a road trip.

The stunt is being headed up by tech company VisLab as a real-world test of the its artificial vision and intelligence systems. So, how does one go about parading a driverless van half way around the globe? Carefully. Two engineers will be positioned in the "driverless" van, with one person behind the wheel just in case something goes fruity. Meanwhile, another two workers will pilot a lead vehicle. The autonomous van will take cues from the people-driven version, but will still rely on a camera array to detect potential obstacles and issues.

The company's route will take the team through Moscow traffic, the frigid temperatures of the Gobi desert and the roadless realms of Siberia. If that's not challenging enough, the vans are both all-electric, and with the advanced technology onboard, the vehicles' batteries must be recharged for eight hours for every two to three hours of driving. The team expects to work in about four hours of driving per day. Needless to say, it's going to take a while – the whole shindig is expected to run a full three months.

[Source: VisLab via Associated Press]

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