Audi A8 drives production model self-driving automation

Audi has officially unveiled the new generation of its Audi A8, reportedly the first production car in the world to have been developed for highly automated self-driving.

The new Audi A8 is reportedly the first production car to have been developed specially for highly automated driving - image courtesy of Audi.
The new Audi A8 is reportedly the first production car to have been developed specially for highly automated driving – image courtesy of Audi.

Revealed at this week’s Audi Summit in Barcelona, the fourth-generation Audi A8 represents the German autogiant’s move towards greater full driving automation.

From 2018, Audi intends to gradually take piloted self-driving functions such as parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot into production.

According to the release details, the Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 37mph on major roads where a physical barrier separates the two lanes. The system is activated by the centre console-located AI button.

The system will manage starting, accelerating, steering and braking, allowing the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and – potentially – focus on a different activity. This could represent a major boost in productivity for those workers who currently spent several hours of their day sat immobile in slow-moving traffic congestion.

The traffic jam pilot revolves around a central driver assistance controller which permanently computes an image of the vehicles surrounding by merging sensor data. As well as radar sensors, a front camera and ultrasonic sensors, Audi states that it is the first automotive manufacturer to also use a laser scanner.

As soon as the system reaches its limit, it calls on the driver to take back control.

A potential hurdle which curtail the systems introduction is the need for national laws to be clarified in each territory, alongside the “country-specific definition of the application and testing of the system”, noted Audi. An issue which may take far longer than the planned 2018 timeline announced.

Both the AI remote parking pilot and garage pilot autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or garage, while the manoeuvred is reportedly monitored by the driver. It isn’t necessary for the driver to be sat in the vehicle, the appropriate system can be started from a smartphone-based app.

A live feed of the manoeuvre is broadcast showing a 360-degee view from the car’s cameras for monitoring.