Sitting in a traffic jam isn't exactly enjoyable, but the 2018 Audi A8, unveiled this week in Barcelona, might change that.
Audi said the car is the "first production automobile in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving." A feature called "AI traffic jam pilot" can take care of driving in slow-moving traffic, up to 37 miles per hour, on highways where a physical barrier separates the road. To activate the system, press an AI button on the center console, and the car will handle accelerating, steering, and braking.
"The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently," Audi said. "They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, depending on the national laws, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV. As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control of the task of driving."
The car is equipped with radar and ultrasonic sensors, as well as a front camera, and a laser scanner to enable this feature. "During piloted driving, a central driver assistance controller … computes an image of the surroundings by merging the sensor data," Audi said.
Meanwhile, the A8 also boasts two autonomous parking features called "AI remote parking pilot," which we first heard about last month, and "AI remote garage pilot." These features can autonomously steer the car into and out of a parking space or garage. You can enable the system from the myAudi smartphone app, and won't even need to be sitting in the car for these features to work.
- Autonomous Vehicles: As Disruptive as the Internet? Autonomous Vehicles: As Disruptive as the Internet?
Audi said it will "gradually" be taking these three piloted driving functions into production, starting next year. The company still has regulatory hurdles to clear to bring its traffic jam pilot to market.
"A range of approval procedures and their corresponding timescales will need to be observed worldwide," Audi said. "Audi will therefore be adopting a step-by-step approach to the introduction of the traffic jam pilot in production models."
Audi plans to start selling the A8 this fall; the base model will set you back €90,600, or about $103,000.