A new era is almost amongst us: soon cars will be driving themselves. The technology has been around for some time, and now it gets proven too. Audi just drove an A7 from Silicon Valley in California to Las Vegas, Nevada, in time for the international consumer electronics show.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Unique real life experience
At the wheel, or rather behind the wheel observing the concept car in its motions were a selected group of automotive journalists. The car, an Audi 3.0 TFSI, performed faultlessly. A team of Audi engineers and VW group R&D, together with people from the VW Group Electronics Research Lab made all this possible.
The journalists were able to experience the car behind the wheel in 100 mile stints at full motorway speeds. Of course the drive gathered valuable data for the engineers.
Production ready solutions...
The concept vehicle utilizes various production-ready sensors as well as sensors integrated into production vehicles today that accurately detect the vehicles surroundings.
Adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Audi side assist (ASA) long-range radar sensors as well as mid-range radar sensors at the front and the rear of the vehicle that are directed to the left and right of the vehicle provide the vehicle with a 360 degree view of its environment.
Laser scanners are integrated into the front Singleframe grille as well the rear bumper to provide additional detailed recognition of static or dynamic objects. The redundance of the sensor data constists of a continuous plausibility check during piloted driving to ensure the correct decisions are being made the vehicle and the driver.
Four smaller cameras at the front and rear of the vehicle provide short-range information of the surrounding environment.
The hi-resolution, wide-angle 3D video camera, which will first see production in the the new Audi Q7, observes the surrounding traffic surrounding the vehicle.
The sensors utilizes is close to production and meets financial targets for inclusion into future products.
The concept relieves the driver of driving duties from 0 to 70 mph, or just over 110 km/h. The car can initiate lane changes and passing manoeuvres as well as accelerate and brake independently.
Before initiating a lane change to the left or the right (on US highways), the vehicle adapts its speed to surrounding vehicles. If the speed and distance calculation is deemed safe, the vehicle initiates the lane change with precision and in a timely manner.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member for technical Development, waves proudly the German flag at the finish...
Before the piloted driving system reaches its limitations, in city environments for example, the driver is requested to take control of the vehicle to ensure proper safety.
Multiple warning signals work in unison: coloured LEDs at the base of the windshield, signals in the driver information display, a Central Status Indicator (CSI), as well as a acoustic warning indicator requires the driver to retake control.
Developments may go fast...
We personally think this is a very interesting evolution, and with the new speed that electronic developments go, rather sooner than later, we will see the above mentioned systems installed in our cars.
The start of the drive, with spirits already high...
What will this mean for older “classic” cars? Will we be forced to replace them, certainly when we are using our cars in congested areas? Many other questions will be raised, and need to be resolved politically and socially...
But needless to say, there will be brave times ahead!
Hans Knol ten Bensel