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Self-driving Audi A7

Mittwoch, 10. Mai. 2017

This A7 may look nothing out of the ordinary, but it packs some state of the art technology. "JACK", as it's called, is one of the world's first self-driving cars. It monitors road traffic using a range of sensors, calculating for example the distance of other cars in front, behind and to the sides.

A section of Autobahn in south Germany has been approved for testing what Audi calls "piloted driving". Here, test car "JACK" drives amid regular road traffic. As the autopilot system becomes available, it flashes up on the car's display and emits an acoustic signal. Two keys besides the steering wheel activate the autopilot system. Then the steering wheel retracts, giving the driver extra space.

Reluctantly, Michelle takes her eyes off the road and turns around. She wants to know from engineer Miklós Kiss why Audi developed "piloted driving".

He says it's because driving isn't always fun. Often it's just a simple commute from A to B. Audi wanted to make such monotonous driving more enjoyable.

Michelle asks about the difference between drive assist systems and piloted driving.

Miklos says drive assist systems require the driver's constant attention. At any moment, the system could switch back and prompt the driver to take back control. So taking your eyes off the road and talking to someone on the backseat is only possible with "piloted driving".

Changes to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic in 2014 made these developments possible. The convention requires drivers to have constant control over their vehicles. Thanks to the changes, overseeing drive assist systems also counts as control. But for now, piloted driving car "JACK" remains in legal limbo. Changes to traffic laws are expected in the next few years.

Much works still needs to be done to transform this concept car into a production model. The concept car's high end technology won't be available in ordinary vehicles for a while. First, more and more elaborate drive assist systems will be installed in production models. And only then will "piloted driving" become available for ordinary cars.