When we think of autonomous cars, we usually think of Tesla or Google, the two companies that have done the most so far to advance the technology.
But Audi has said that it believes it will have the first fully autonomous production car in 2017, in the form of the A8.
The A8 is still very much in the development phase. Recently, a picture of the chassis of the car was snapped by Auto Express showing that it has more aluminium construction than any other car in Audi’s range.
What’s more, Audi seems to be doing all they can to reduce the weight of the vehicle, giving it magnesium and carbon fibre components.
Given that other motor companies are still citing the 2020s as the time when they will start offering autonomous cars, Audi’s promise to have the A8 on the road by the end of the summer seems very ambitious.
Recently, there have been a whole host of accidents involving computer-driven cars and some in the industry are worried that if the technology is deployed before it is ready, it’ll set the whole autonomous project back a decade.
Although you can get money for junk cars, nobody wants their brand new vehicle written off all because of a computer glitch.
Audi, though, appear to be quietly confident. It makes sense that the company’s latest and most advanced autonomous tech would appear in its top-of-the-range car first. The A8 is the carmaker’s premier luxury saloon, and the obvious place to put the company’s first autonomous system.
The level of autonomy in the A8 will supersede that currently offered by Tesla. Audi has promised “level 3” technology, which means that the driver will be able to relax and take their eyes off the road for some sections.
In effect, the car will be able to completely take over from the driver. It’s all been made possible by new technology that will be fitted to the car.
The A8 will come with radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors, laser scanners and hi-def video cameras. All the data they collect will then be sent to the car’s internal computer which will enable the car to drive itself through traffic jams and on the motorway.
It’s no surprise that Audi has decided to invest heavily in autonomy. The company expects that 90 percent of innovation in the car market will come from software in the future.
We’re reaching a point of mechanical perfection, beyond which additional gains will be hard to obtain unless there is a revolution in materials science (keep an eye on graphene).
Audi also say that they are focusing on improving their existing lighting technology. According to Ricky Hudi, the head of electronics at the company, they’re working on organic LEDs, possibly for the upcoming A8, which will allow them to come up with more interesting and beautiful lighting combinations.
Audi also say that it wants to implement a gesture control system for the cabin. It’s not yet clear how this will work, but the company wants to use it for accepting incoming calls.