In a move that would make Philip K. Dick proud, Audi is premiering a self driving car at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The autonomous A7 — which the company has chosen to nickname “Jack” — began its trip to Las Vegas from San Francisco on Saturday. The self-driving technology is called “Piloted Driving,” and Audi is going so far as stating the sensors that make up this new system are allegedly “production ready.” From CNET:
This A7 comes with Audi’s standard long-range forward radar, currently used for adaptive cruise control, but also features two rear-facing and two side-facing radar sensors. A laser scanner, or LIDAR, behind the grille serves as a redundant sensor to help the radar with solid-object detection. A 3D camera also looks forward, while four smaller cameras monitor the front and rear views from the corners of the car.
The information from all these sensors and the car’s GPS location get processed by an onboard computer, which can control braking, acceleration and steering.
Audi notes that the system will work from 0 to 70 mph, but when the car approaches an urban area it will alert the driver to take over manual control. If the driver does not take over within a set amount of time, the car will turn on its flashers and pull over onto the shoulder. While under way on the highway, the A7 can initiate its own lane changes and passes.
This self-driving A7 prototype uses lane lines to guide its trajectory and if they disappear due to weather or other circumstances, the vehicle will revert to monitoring GPS and its relative distance from other cars. While there looks to be a few kinks that still need to be worked out regarding unpredictable driving environments, we may begin seeing self-driving cars on the roads in a few years. Hell, the concept of “Piloted Driving” may soon be the ideal method in taking long distance road trips. We are living in the future, folks! The next thing you know, all restaurants will be Taco Bell!