Self-driving cars could become a reality with road-embedded magnets, which are not sensitive to poor weather.

Gothenburg, Sweden - Self-driving cars are seen as the future in the quest to minimise road accidents, most of which are caused by human error.

Several manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, are working on cars that can drive from A to B without any driver involvement, but one of the major challenges is road positioning.

Most autonomous car prototypes rely on the Global Positioning System and cameras to ensure they stay in their lanes and keep a safe following distance, but these can be affected by poor weather or objects blocking the view of the cameras.

One possible solution by Volvo is to use a series of magnets buried in the road.

The Swedish carmaker set up a 100-metre track at its testing facilities in Hällered near Gothenburg. Ferrite magnets were embedded about 200mm below the road surface, and a self-driving car fitted with magnetic sensors was driven along the road, using the magnets to help guide its way.

Researchers found that ferrite magnets were an efficient, reliable and relatively cheap solution, both when it comes to the infrastructure and on-board sensor technology.

Volvo reckons the magnets could be installed in existing road markings such as cat’s eyes.

A spokesman said: “The magnets create an invisible railway that literally paves the way for a positioning inaccuracy of less than 100mm.

“We have tested the technology at a variety of speeds and the results so far are promising.”

The next step will be to conduct tests in real-life traffic, says Volvo.