As driver-assistance technologies become more sophisticated, they will one day drive the car, Bosch says (Photo: Bosch)

Increasingly sophisticated driver-assistance technologies will gradually make autonomous driving a reality, according to Robert Bosch.

"Fully autonomous driving will come about one step at a time," said Gerhard Steiger, president of the Chassis Systems Control division of the German automotive supplier.

Bosch builds and markets a range of driver-assistance technologies, including adaptive cruise control, ESP, lane-detection warning, radar and ultrasound sensors and multi-purpose video cameras.

It also offers a so-called traffic jam assistant, which can autonomously move a vehicle at speeds of up to 50 km/hour in stop-and-go traffic.

Together, Bosch predicts, these systems will make autonomous driving a reality in due course.

"At first, driving on highways with an ever greater degree of automation and at ever higher speeds will be possible, until the highway pilot can take over the entire trip," Steiger said in a press release.

The Bosch official cited two major challenges: First, the need for technology to deal with dense inner-city travel. And second, the requirement that all functions operate reliably in every driving situation.

Premium  car maker Audi demonstrated its version of piloted driving at the CES consumer electronics fair in Las Vegas last week. And Lexus showed a research vehicle there that would also be capable of driving on its own.

Audi executives said piloted driving can be a reality before the end of the decade.