Ahead of a presentation at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Audi demonstrated its latest autonomous technology by allowing a specially equipped Audi A7 to pilot itself 550 miles from Silicon Valley, California, to CES in Las Vegas, Nevada. Audi invited a few journalists to participate in a demonstration, and allowed them to “drive” approximately 100 miles each in the autonomous A7.
The Audi A7 technology concept can drive autonomously between zero and 70 mph on the highway, accelerating, braking, steering, and changing lanes independently, without any input from the driver whatsoever. When the car enters a city environment, or encounters another problem, an in-cabin warning system alerts the occupants, and turns control back over to the driver. If the driver ignores these prompts, the vehicle pulls over and stops in the emergency lane and turns on the hazard lights.
The Audi A7 uses navigation data for its basic orientation, and has a series of radar sensors installed on various points around the car to help detect surrounding vehicles. Long-range radar information is pulled from the existing adaptive cruise control system, while the front and back of the A7 gathers radar data from the Audi’s blind-spot monitoring system. Two mid-range radar sensors are mounted at the front and the rear of the vehicle, completing a full 360 degree radar ‘map’ of its surroundings. Additionally, laser scanners are mounted within the front grille and the rear bumper to provide even more information regarding its surroundings. The Audi A7 also features a front-mounted 3D video camera, borrowed from the new 2016 Audi Q7 crossover, which provides a wide-angle view in the front of the vehicle.
Audi has previously demonstrated some of its autonomous technology at higher speeds, when a specially-equipped Audi RS7 hit 150 mph during a lap at the Hockenheimring track, and autonomous parking and parking garage navigation in another specialized Audi A7 at the 2013 CES.
Audi says these systems are ‘production ready,’ with cost projections and vehicle compatibility already fitting in with the next generation of flagship Audi sedans.
While Audi is focusing on the integration of autonomous technology to existing model lineups, Mercedes-Benz recently announced the debut of an autonomous vehicle concept at the 2015 CES, which will not be based on any model Mercedes offers today. Mercedes previously showed an modified S-Class that could drive autonomously.