A University of Nevada researcher and his colleagues went hands-free from Nogales to Mexico City, setting a record in the process.

As self-driving vehicles seem to be steering themselves ever closer to the mainstream, a team of researchers has completed Mexico’s longest-ever journey in an autonomous car, traveling 1,500 miles in a special high-tech Volkswagen.

Raul Rojas, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, led a team that traveled from Nogales to Mexico City this month. The car used for the journey, a 2010 Volkswagen Passat station wagon named Autonomos, was sent to Reno from Berlin, where it’s been legal for road testing since 2011.

Autonomos is equipped with seven laser scanners, nine video cameras, seven radars and an incredibly precise GPS unit, all of which were used in various combinations to navigate during the trip. Rojas and company preprogrammed the route into the self-driving software, but the car handled maneuvers like braking and lane changes on the fly.

Autonomos’ feat is the latest milestone on the journey toward bringing self-driving vehicles to the general public. In September, details emerged about Apple’s reported interest in the market and about Google’s efforts to make its self-piloted vehicles behave less like robots and drive more fluidly. In October, Japanese carmaker Toyota said it planned to have autonomous cars commercially available by 2020. And a year earlier, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said we’ll see fully autonomous driving in “maybe five or six years.”

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