Audi plans its first fully autonomous, electric vehicles as soon as 2021.
25 May, 2018
Mention autonomous vehicles and you’re no longer greeted with sceptical smiles or comments about the distant future. Most people are not only aware of the tremendous advances in the supporting technology, but are very much aware of the fact that autonomous vehicles – as a mainstream reality and not just a clever novelty – are already possible.
The Audi A8 is the first vehicle to offer a recognised level of autonomous driving – what’s called Level 3, which allows the driver to hand over responsibility to the car and do other unrelated things, as long as they’re able to resume control within 10 seconds of being notified.
The only impediment to the introduction of this technology in some markets is the legislative go ahead – what might have seemed a sci-fi marvel only a matter of years ago is now a working, series production reality.
But as incredible as this concept may still seem to some, even greater levels of autonomous driving are already so well advanced that Peter Mertens, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at AUDI AG, recently announced that the first autonomous electric car based on the Audi Aicon show car, would be a reality as soon as 2021.
"Autonomous vehicles – as a mainstream reality and not just a clever novelty – are already possible."
"To be fully autonomous under the current ratings system set down by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), means a vehicle capable of Level 5, where the driver is not required at all – the vehicle does it all."
“Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Vorsprung durch Technik, we will also present our first autonomous electric car based on our Audi Aicon show car in 2021. An interurban shuttle with lounge character – initially in a pilot fleet and around the middle of the decade as a series-production car for automated driving,” Mertens said at the 129th Annual General Meeting of AUDI AG.
To be fully autonomous under the current ratings system set down by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), means a vehicle capable of Level 5, where the driver is not required at all – the vehicle does it all.
The grading systems allows for five distinct levels of autonomous driving. Level Zero is a conventional car where the driver is completely in charge, and at Level 1, systems such as cruise control are able to assist the driver who remains in control of the vehicle. Level 2 sees the likes of systems such as Audi’s the current Traffic Jam assist introduced, but an attentive driver in most situations is still the overriding force.
The aforementioned Level 3 moves things up to a completely new level, handing control of the car over to drive and deal with other traffic in day to day situations, using systems like Traffic Jam pilot. Of course the driver must remain in a position to take over again with warning, but in applications like freeway driving and on well made and marked roads, the car’s advanced sensors and computing ability take over and allow the driver to concentrate on other things.
Level 4 takes that scenario even further, according to Miklos Kiss, Head of Pre-Development Driver Assistance Systems at AUDI AG.
“Level 4 means that the driver is not needed in certain situations,” says Kiss. “So maybe for the highway pilot, on the highway mode, the driver can sit back and relax. Before the car gets off the highway, the driver can take over and go off the highway.”
But with the proposed pilot fleet of vehicles on track for introduction by 2021, the vehicles will be equipped with Level 5, where the vehicle takes care of all duties.
“At Level 5, the driver is not needed in any case in any street on Earth,” says Kiss. The Audi Aicon demonstrates this perfectly, providing a sumptuous environment for the occupants to sit back and relax while the vehicle literally takes care of everything.”
"In applications like freeway driving and on well made and marked roads, the car’s advanced sensors and computing ability take over and allow the driver to concentrate on other things."
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