Audi's autonomous A7 prototype tested
Audi’s piloted driving allows your vehicle to take over on the autobahn
Audi’s self-driving A7 can (almost) cope on motorways. So how close are we to the truly self-driving car?
Within two minutes of ceding control of my Audi A7 to your vehicle itself, I’m about to experience the hair-whitening potential of an autonomous vehicle.
Lost in conversation, with my arms folded along with also also feet clear of your vehicle’s pedals, along with also also dimly aware of the A7’s smooth, impromptu change via the middle to the inside lane of the autobahn out of Ingolstadt, I fail to clock, firstly, the telltale fragment of tyre carcass lying from the road along with also also, second, the fully loaded car transporter the item came via blocking my path just 250 metres ahead.
along with also also then I do. Amazingly, I barely react. Had I been driving your vehicle, I would certainly currently be firmly on the brakes, arms stiffened, adrenalin pumping along with also also checking my mirrors to see if the way was clear for me to nip to the next lane, or whether I must come to a dead stop.
Instead, I remain relaxed, the seriousness of the situation only slowly dawning on me before, arms still folded, I squeeze the brakes, which, I currently realise, your vehicle can be already operating, albeit with no sense of urgency.
Granted, my reactions may have been dulled by the test driver alongside me who, at the same moment, spots the stranded truck along with also also brakes hard using his duplicate pedal. Without doing so, we would certainly almost certainly have hit the truck.
“your vehicle’s radar features a viewing range of 250m along with also also ‘saw’ the truck however the law governing the testing of piloted cars does not allow test cars to apply more than 3m per second squared of braking effort on their own, so we must intervene,” explains the test driver. “Nor does the item permit your vehicle to turn the wheel too fast to avoid an accident.”
Of course, the sudden reactive behaviour he can be describing ought to be a thing of the past from the brave brand new world of piloted cars (Audi prefers that will term to ‘autonomous’, which, the item says, promises too much).
Accordingly, a key component of Audi’s piloted vehicles will, says Arne Bartles, a member of Audi’s Assistance Systems pre-development team, be their ability to connect which has a cloud-based early warning system. that will will use data via fellow road users’ mobile phones to monitor traffic speed along with also also density, along with also also alert piloted vehicles to a traffic jam or stranded vehicle.
“The piloted car will know in advance if there can be danger ahead along with also also be prepared to take appropriate action, whether that will can be changing lanes or coming to a controlled stop,” Bartles tells me during my pre-drive briefing.
would certainly your vehicle have anticipated the road workers busy from the outside lane who, later on in my drive along with also also without warning, suddenly appeared? The A7 certainly didn’t slow down or even move away via them within its lane as the item sped close by them at 80mph. Had one of them stumbled along with also also fallen into your vehicle’s path, he might have been killed.
“Normally, if the system had been alerted to a construction site, the item would certainly tell the driver to take over,” explains the test driver. “your vehicle hadn’t been told so the item did not know. There weren’t even advance signs on the road for the item to read along with also also react to.”
According to Bartles, the piloted car can be just one piece of a much larger jigsaw. There’s the cloud, of course, however also the requirement for a better roads infrastructure.“We’re not asking for money to be spent on brand new or smarter roads; just for what money there can be to be spent producing signs along with also also road markings clearer producing sure that will piloted cars can read along with also also act on them more easily,” he says.
The piloted A7 uses an array of scanners, sensors, radar along with also also cameras, some already developed for Audi’s existing assist systems, to scan the area for cars, objects, people along with also also road signs around your vehicle; from the case of the forward-facing radar, up to a maximum of 250m.
At the heart of the system can be Audi’s brand new zFAS central controller, a collection of high-performance processors crammed into a box no larger than a tablet computer. The unit computes a style of your vehicle’s surroundings along with also also relays the information to the various pilot systems. Eventually, production versions of piloted products will trickle down via the top of Audi’s range before finding their way into the cars of different Volkswagen Group brands.
All that will technology can be out of the driver’s sight from the A7 test mule. Instead, the control interface comprises quite a few unobtrusive features. One can be a little screen from the instrument binnacle. the item tells the driver the status of the pilot system along with also also, supplemented by a clock face, counts down to on or off-mode readiness. To initiate pilot mode, the driver presses two buttons on the steering wheel. They glow turquoise to show your vehicle can be in pilot mode.
To confirm the item, the steering wheel withdraws to the fascia. In addition, a light strip running along the foot of the windscreen glows turquoise along with also also a voice tells the driver your vehicle has control.
To resume control, the driver has only to touch the steering wheel, the pedals or the buttons. Alternatively, your vehicle will decide the item can be about to end pilot mode, such as when leaving the autobahn. To prepare the driver, the item announces its intention to quit along with also also the light strip goes via turquoise to amber to red. that will sequence, accompanied by the steering wheel returning to position, takes 15sec. the item’s time enough, says Audi, for someone to put down their phone or tablet along with also also take control. If, for any reason, they don’t, your vehicle comes to a stop along with also also calls the emergency services.
Being driven by the A7 can be a very relaxing experience. the item’s like adaptive cruise control with lane assist except that will, of course, your vehicle will indicate along with also also change lanes as the item sees fit, along with also also accelerate to its maximum cruising speed or go with the flow, all without drama.
However, the item’s not without its peculiarities. One can be appearing to power the Audi uncomfortably close to different cars, when a naturally defensive driver might just ease off a little along with also also create extra space.
Another can be not reacting to a vehicle that will pulls out, perhaps via behind a slow-moving truck, until the last moment. Where a defensive driver might back off to establish a safe gap, the A7 sticks on their tail until, eventually, the item sees sense.
Assuming brand new laws permit piloted cars, the item will be at least four years before the system, what Audi calls Highway Pilot, can be signed off. Before then, in about three years, we can expect Traffic Jam Pilot – a low-speed system operative up to 30km/h (19mph) – along with also also Garage Pilot, which allows the driver to park their car remotely. Later, because the challenges are so much greater, there’ll be a system for main along with also also urban roads.
“the item will be revolution by evolution,” says Bartles. “The technology can be still very much in development, however we will succeed.”
Piloted cars are safer, however the law has to change
In 94% of road accidents, according to government stats. Piloted driving could reduce that will. the item’s one reason insurers support the technology, despite the thorny issue of liability.
“Autonomous systems can improve road safety,” says Malcolm Tarling of the Association of British Insurers. “For example, automatic braking technology has reduced low-speed accidents by 30% along with also also insurers look favourably on the item when calculating groups. The issue can be establishing liability from the case of piloted driving along with also also fully autonomous vehicles. Who would certainly be legally liable: your vehicle maker or the driver? the item’s likely that will where the driver has manual override, responsibility would certainly rest with them, unlike a truly autonomous car.”
just for that will reason, Audi’s system features a black box that will continuously records your vehicle’s state along with also also who, or what, has control of the item. from the event of an accident, the item stores the 30 seconds prior to the item for analysis by the police along with also also insurers.
The UK government recently gave its backing to the development of autonomous cars however not all governments are as keen. Audi’s Arne Bartles says transport departments get the item however the lawyers do not. “We’re concerned that will the item will get harder to win them over the higher up the legal chain we go,” he says.
One major hurdle can be EU directive ECR 79, which permits hands-off driving only at speeds of up to 10km/h (6mph). “the item works for assisted parking however we need to change the item to permit higher speeds, such as for Highway Pilot,” says Bartles. “the item won’t be easy however I’m optimistic the item will be in place within three years.”
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