Autonomous Driving Project

Every major automotive brand, and even many traditionally non-automotive companies are investing heavily in R&D for autonomous driving. Audi is no exception. Audi has been working towards autonomous driving for many years now, through their piloted driving concepts. The all-new 2019 Audi A8, which arrives in the spring of 2018, will be the first Level 3 Autonomous vehicle in the Canadian marketplace.

No Longer Just a Vision

Luxury cars that took control without driver input used to be a dream of the far future, but Audi’s piloted driving solidifies that the concept is almost here.

Autonomous cars utilize a combination of techniques to continuously analyze their surroundings, such as laser light, radar, GPS, computer vision, and odometry. Interpretation of sensory information done by advanced control technology helps to identify safe and optimal navigation paths, and it detects obstacles and even road signage, working flawlessly in daytime and nighttime driving conditions.

On a test drive through the streets of Shanghai, China, Audi’s A7 piloted Sportback concept car, known as “Kong Ming”, went on a mission to test the endurance of such a concept in a sprawling, metropolitan city that’s much like Toronto. On speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour, which could represent suburban streets in Canada, the A7 flawlessly remained in-lane, braking and accelerating as required, with no driver input required.

At the touch of a button, you can switch into Piloted Driving mode, take your feet off the gas pedals, free your hands from the steering wheel, and let your Audi do the rest. The steering wheel turns and operates smoothly by itself, and your Audi will safely transport you to your destination. Along with this natural human resistance, there are a number of other factors that will delay the speed at which fully autonomous cars come to market.  Hurdles for the fully autonomous car include liability disputes, and related issues which represent the time needed to turn an existing fleet of vehicles from non-autonomous to autonomous. This includes the requirement of legal framework and the establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars, among others.

Autonomous Driving Means a Safer Future

According to Thomas Müeller, Head of Development Brake/Steering/Driver Assistance Systems for Audi, 90% of accidents are actually caused by the driver, so the entire point of Audi’s piloted driving project is to create a smart system that reduces harm. As always, you as a driver should always have a sense of awareness on the road, and be prepared to step in, should there be a system disruption. Audi’s AI technology is expected to therefore reduce accident-related costs, while effectively providing harm-reduction driving solutions to passengers requiring assistance, such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, or small children.

At the end of the day, safety is a priority, and as a luxury automotive brand, Audi recognizes the importance of this. The cockpit in the A7 prototype features a large colour display screen that highlights the vehicle’s position in relation to other vehicles on the road. You can observe oncoming traffic, lane changes, and speeds, and relax knowing that your vehicle has everything under control. Currently, Audi’s concept car for piloted driving covers safety for up to 60 kilometres an hour. The next step is to fire things up a notch and invest in research and development that will grant up to 120 kilometres an hour. As of now, various driving factors like construction or traffic jams haven’t been added to the equation, but everything is in the works for 2018.