An Audi A7 Sportback “piloted driving” concept successfully completed a 560-mile journey without incident; piloted driving is Audi’s way of saying self-driving. The vehicle, which comes equipped with an array of radar sensors, laser scanners and 3D video cameras, managed to keep the car and its passengers safe in traffic and on the highway without the intervention from a driver.
Audi says the test-drive was crucial for the collection of actionable data to help the automaker further improve its piloted driving technology. An experienced Audi test driver accompanied journalists on the journey (per California law), but otherwise the journey was driven in 100 mile stints in various situations on public highways all by itself.
Sensors included in the concept’s grille are capable of providing the system with detailed recognition data of static and dynamic objects, giving Audi continuous plausibility check during piloted driving. This ensures the system is making the correct decisions so the driver doesn’t ever have to intervene. Driving in California in and of itself is a big accomplishment for humans, so it’s even more impressive for a computer to do it. Most of the driving was done on long, mostly empty highways, but you have to start somewhere.
“The sensors utilized are close to production and meet financial targets for inclusion into future products,” Audi said. “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 maneuvers as well as accelerate and brake independently.”
The piloted driving system does have limitations, such as in city environments, so drivers do need to take control in certain situations. However, the data collected over the 560-mile journey should give Audi engineers what they need to improve the experience for a completely autonomous experience. That means potentially driving through the busy streets of Los Angeles without ever needing to take control.