Back in September, Volkswagen’s luxury arm Audi became the first automaker in the world to obtain an official permit from the state of California to allow it to test and refine its Piloted Driving technology on California’s busy roads.
At the start of the week, it showcased how advanced that technology was by sending one of its Audi A7 Piloted Driving concept cars on a 560-mile journey from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, Nevada, accompanied by a select band of tech and automotive journalists heading to the Las Vegas-held 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.
Overall, each journalist was given around 100 miles behind the wheel, giving them a chance to experience Audi’s semi-autonomous Piloted Driving technology for themselves. Although there was a trained Audi test-driver in the front passenger seat at all times — required under Californian autonomous-vehicle law — Audi says the road trip represents the longest Piloted-Driving test it has ever conducted at full highway speeds with members of the public behind the wheel.
The demonstration is the latest in a long-line of impressive autonomous — or Piloted Driving — demonstrations from Audi. Last year, Audi demonstrated its A7 Piloted Driving concept car in Florida, successfully navigating a busy rush-hour with stop-start traffic. The towards the end of the year, it sent a fully-autonomous RS7 race car around the Hockenheim ring with absolutely no one inside.
Unlike that particular demonstration, which required a lot of preparation and pre-programming from Audi’s technicians to ensure the RS7 knew exactly where it was on the race track at all times, this week’s demonstration focused not on fully automated driving but more on the autopilot potential for Audi’s technology.
This includes features like adaptive cruise control, Audi side assist and the ability to change lanes when safe.
As Audi detailed at CES following the vehicle’s arrival, the technology used to give the Audi A7 Piloted Driving prototype its self-driving capabilities utilises a mixture of production-ready sensors as well as a slew of sensors already included in many Audi vehicles. While Audi is careful not to set a production timescale for its Piloted Drive technology, it is keen to note that the sensors used in its prototype are “close to production and meet financial targets for inclusion into future products.”
These sensors include long-range and mid-range radar sensors at the front and rear of the vehicle, as well as a laser scanner integrated into the front grille, four small cameras located around the car’s exterior and a high-resolution, wide-angle 3D video camera at the front of the vehicle. Combined, they are capable of collecting visual and non-visual data allowing the car’s on-board computer to ‘see’ a full 360 degrees around itself, allowing it to recognise hazards, react to other traffic and keep its occupants safe.
But while the Audi Piloted Driving system has shown itself to be more than capable on the freeway, operating at speeds of up to 70 mph with ease, Audi says its Piloted Driving system isn’t designed for city centres. When driving through city environments, Audi’s system Piloted Driving system prompts the driver to take control of the vehicle but continues to process information from all of its sensors, alerting the driver to any dangers or changes in traffic patterns via visual and auditory warnings.
Do you look forward to Audi’s upcoming autonomous Piloted Driving system? Would you trust it to keep you safe on the road? Or do you prefer to retain control of your car yourself?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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