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Audi breaks world speed record for a self-driving car

German car manufacturer Audi claims that its RS7 vehicle reached speeds of 149mph, breaking the speed record for a self-driving car.

The uncrewed car took just over two minutes to complete a lap of the Hockenheim racing circuit in south-west Germany.

Read more: Google's driverless cars are designed to break the UK speed limit

Audi's comparison lap of the track, with a human behind the wheel, took five seconds longer to complete.

Dr Horst Glaser, of the company's research team, believes that self-driving cars could eventually be used by the public.

"I know accident-free driving will remain a vision. But at least we can reduce the number of accidents in the future," he said. "Piloted driving defuses situations like, for example, being in a traffic jam. Whenever the driver is distracted and inattentive the car could take over.

The RS7 is the culmination of 15 years of research by the firm in the Europe and the US. The vehicle uses a combination of cameras, GPS location data, laser scanners and radar sensors to guide itself when driving, with computing equipment stored in the boot of the car processing the data.

Despite the successful test drive, Professor David Bailey from Aston Business School cautioned that navigating the pitfalls of everyday driving poses a bigger challenge than an empty racetrack.

"I think we will see driverless cars on our roads within a decade, but there's clearly still a lot of work to do," he told the BBC.

"You need to make sure they interact with other driverless cars as well as those piloted by humans - you've got to make sure the software absolutely works."

Professor Bailey also added that the insurance industry was not prepared for the emergence of self-driving cars, with the question of who is responsible for accidents a difficult one to answer.

"Who is responsible? Is it the driver even if they are not driving? Is it the car company? Is it the software company? There are a whole load of legal issues to sort out."

Read more: Self-driving lorries will roll out on UK roads by 2015

A number of other car manufacturer and technology firms are also experimenting with artificial intelligence-driven vehicles, including Mercedes, Tesla, BMW and Google.