Audi is the German manufacturer of luxurious vehicles, a member of the Volkswagen Group. Audi is the leader in self-driving cars development among all brands gathered under Volkswagen’s umbrella. NVIDIA, a company producing graphic chipsets, is the main Audi’s partner in this field.
In 2017, in partnership with NVIDIA, Audi became the first company which presented its serial car with Level 3 self-driving automation technology (SAE 3). This level is the most controversial and disputable of all SAE line amongst carmakers’ engineers and has been named as ‘conditional automation.’ It is Audi A8 sedan debuted on July 11, 2017, in Barcelona, which autonomous driving function received a name “Traffic Jam Pilot.” The self-driving mode in 2018 Audi A8 works at up to 37 mph in conditions when there is no adjacent or oncoming traffic. If these conditions are valid, a driver may distract from the road so much that he or she can read a book or use a tablet. But no way can a driver take a nap as the car may ask a person to take over controls in certain circumstances and a driver must be ready to do so. The lack of laws, applicable to high-level automation cars, is one of the main hindrances to using such vehicle nowadays. But this problem will be solved with time.
At the beginning of January 2017, at CES in Las Vegas, Audi and NVIDIA presented a Level 4 concept of autonomous enhanced Audi Q7 (№2) which will appear on roads before 2020. This automation level allows controlling driving processes completely without involving a man, but the technology is limited to certain regions and weather conditions. There is a possibility to switch to manual operation is necessary. This innovative concept technology is based on NVIDIA’s Xavier AI supercomputer capable of self-learning. Audi Q7 was shown to prove that it is able to recognize road surface markings and to make decisions without taking into account the available information about the environment. AI learns while watching a human driver operating a car.
The autonomous Audi cars’ history of development
The first Audi driverless car model was Audi TTS in 2009, a group of Stanford scientists’ work result. In 2010, a racing driverless Audi TTS passed a 12 miles racing track, towards Pikes Peak in Colorado for 27 minutes while an experienced car racer manages to do the same for 17 minutes. It was a pretty impressive result as of 2010.
In January 2013, Audi receives a license to test its self-driving vehicles on roads of Nevada State and becomes the second company after Google which started testing this technology on public roads. Nevertheless, Audi conducted its tests only at driver assistance level at that time.
At CES 2013, Audi presented its first self-driving test vehicle named A6 Avant and another test sedan A7 capable of self-parking.
In mid-September 2014, Audi becomes the first carmaker allowed to take autonomous vehicles tests on Californian roads.
In October 2014, the company presented its racing driverless Audi RS7, equipped with 3D cameras and specially corrected GPS signals, which drove on the racing track in Hockenheim at ten tenths without a driver inside.
In January 2015, at CES, Audi appeared riding self-driving A7, named “Jack” which made 550 miles from San Francisco to Las Vegas. The equipment, installed on the vehicle, included 3 cameras, 6 radars, and 1 LIDAR.
On July 25, 2016, the car manufacturer unveiled its intentions to create a subsidiary company, named SDS, aimed at self-driving technologies development.
On May 31, 2017, Audi was the first automaker to receive permission for testing autonomous vehicles in the state of New York. A sedan Audi A7 with SAE Level 3 autonomy was manufactured to become a tested car which appeared on the roads in Albany in mid-June, 2017.