Satellite navigation technology in mobile phones could soon be used to control cars, observed Australian scientists. Researchers said they will road test a vehicle which uses a phone's satellite navigation technology and camera to drive along the street within a year.
Dr Jun Jo from Griffith University on Australia's Gold Coast told Sky News, "When I get into the car I simply place my mobile phone in the dashboard, facing the camera out to the front. All the sensors around the car will start communicating with my phone."
Dr Jo and his team have built a prototype car that they are using to test the software. The vehicle has an on-board computer, radar system and sensors that communicate with the phone.
The researchers believe, one day, we will not own individual cars but will use communal vehicles just when we need them, slotting our phones in the dashboard with all the information the car needs for the journey.
"We believe cars will become shared properties rather than individual belongings," said Dr Jo.
"Sharing cars will reduce lots of expenditure and solve a lot of traffic congestion in the middle of cities.
"My smartphone could reserve a car near my house and, then when I leave home, I place my mobile phone in the dashboard and my smartphone actually knows where to go and what is my preferred driving style.
"Then when I get out of the car the phone will fix payment for the time I spent in it and for the fuel consumed."
The race is on to develop driverless, or autonomous, vehicles with many motor manufacturers investing in research.
In the US, Google was recently issued with the first licence for an autonomous car in Nevada. A Toyota Prius has been fitted with the company's driverless technology.
Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and General Motors are just some of the companies testing driverless car systems.
Sydney-based motoring journalist Toby Hagen says success will depend on safety and reliability: "We have got a lot of autonomy in vehicles at the moment, things like crash avoidance, self-parking, the ability to keep a car in a lane.
"All of them work up to a point but none of them are perfect and that is one of the issues here. If you are going to have a car that wants to take full control of all the driving, it has to work 100 per cent of the time."
An app that lets you nap behind the wheel is still some way off, however: the Australian researchers believe it could be a decade before completely autonomous cars are commercially available.