Valeo lines up self-driving cars for 2015 or maybe 2018

French firm unveils downloadable key system then reveals it has autonomous driving tech all ready to go…

You may not have heard of Valeo, but this French brand makes car tech for a who's who of the motor industry - everyone from BMW to Jaguar Land Rover to Volvo. At CES it was showing off a downloadable key for your car, but the discussion soon turned to self-driving vehicles.

Oh yeah, the downloadable key. Sorry. InBlue is an app for smartphones and smartwatches that lets you remotely open car doors via Bluetooth and then disables the immobiliser once you're ensconced in said car.

The clever twist to this is that key codes can be changed at will, and also downloaded and shared, making this a potentially excellent solution for car rental and car sharing, which is growing in popularity. Forty per cent of Europeans are considering some sort of car-share arrangement in the next ten years, and 3.5 million people worldwide already do, at least according to Valeo's research.

No partners were named at the launch, which is perhaps not surprising. The system is compatible with Remote Park 4U, Valeo's automated parking system, and that's been described as not ready for market until 2018.

This became a recurring theme as the discussion turned to automated driving. Valeo's spokesman introduced Cruse 4U, its largely autonomous driving system, and said it could be in cars "this year" subject to changes in the law that would allow its use. However, he subsequently named 2018 as the year a "big brand" would start installing the system.

Of course, the truth is that nobody knows when the world's car buyers and law makers will be ready for self-driving vehicles, but Valeo's system - which is on show here in Vegas, so we'll be looking at it this week - appears highly advanced.

Cruse 4U employs multiple sensors, arrayed in a 360-degree spread around the car. Data from all these cameras, lasers and radar is overlaid to accurately identify different types of obstacle, hitting the brakes and/or alerting the driver as required. The intention is to assist the driver rather than replace him or her, however, with hands bring required on the wheel at all times, a state of affairs monitored by cameras and touchpads.

Valeo's full list of CES auto announcements are here, everything else you need to know about CES is right here.