New Audi A7 Drives Over 500 Miles By Itself From San Francisco To Las Vegas

With a final destination of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Audi A7 Sportback drove from San Francisco to Las Vegas “mostly on autopilot.” The test of what’s being called a “piloted driving concept” was followed intensely by members of the media.

Professor Ulrich Hackenberg, an Audi Board Member for Technical Development, talked about the importance of the test and its successful completion.

“The results of the test drive underscore our piloted driving competency. I’d like to thank the team of Audi engineers, VW Group R&D and the Electronics Research Laboratory for making it such a great success.”

Audi, a German automaker, says the ultimate goal is a car which will pilot itself as directed by the driver. This most recent 900 km test “resulted in actionable data” to get one step closer to cars that pilot themselves being available to customers. The test from San Francisco to Las Vegas was the longest drive undertaken so far by Audi at full road speeds with members of the public behind the wheel. Each driver was able to experience piloted driving in 160 kilometer sections in various traffic situations on public highways.

The Audi A7 sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, but Audi says that the features on the car that allow it to drive itself are “production-ready.” Adaptive cruise control and Audi side assist long-range radar sensors, as well as mid-range radar sensors at the front and the rear of the vehicle directed to the left and right, provide a 360-degree view of its environment. Laser scanners are integrated into the front grille and the rear bumper to provide additional detailed recognition of static or dynamic objects.

All of that sensor data is confirmed by a continuous plausibility check during piloted driving to make sure the decisions the car is making are sound for the car and the drivers. Four small cameras in the front and back corners of the vehicle provide short-range information about the surrounding area. A high-res, wide-angle 3D camera observes the traffic surrounding the vehicle, but that camera won’t be available until production starts on the new Audi Q7.

What can the car do on its own? Initiate land-changes and passing maneuvers. Accelerate and brake independently. Adapts speed to surrounding vehicles before initiating a lane-change. By the time the vehicle reaches what are considered its limits for piloted situations, (like in a busy city), the car asks the driver to take back control of the vehicle.

Does a car like the new Audi sound right up your alley, or does the prospect of a car that drives itself frighten you?

[Image via TurboFSI]