The newest marketing ploy to drive customers insane over how technologically advanced certain car brands are is "autonomous driving;" love it or hate it, but it is here to stay and that is where most carmakers will be heading in the future. Audi is the latest to jump on the "autonomous" bandwagon and those already familiar with its 2015 A7 piloted driving concepr will be happy to learn that the prototype will perform a mostly driverless test drive from Silicon Valley, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show) is currently taking place.

The car will drive itself more than 550 miles on public roads over the course of two days, with the driving time being split between a number of journalists, each of them being in charge of the Audi’s self-driving for around 100 miles. A professional test driver from Audi will obviously accompany the journalists from the passenger seat just in case something goes terribly wrong.

To make things clear, the autonomous Audi A7 piloted driving concept isn’t actually fully autonomous, and in city traffic it will request the driver to take control of the wheel in order to "ensure proper safety," as Audi says. On top of that, all the journalist test drivers have been trained beforehand by Audi at the Arizona Proving Grounds, so in theory none of them should have any problems bringing the semi-autonomous and probably very expensive prototype to CES safely. The test drive represents a common effort between Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) and Volkswagen Research and Development.

Click past the jump to read more about the Audi A7 Piloted Driving Concept.

Why it matters

I’m all for autonomous driving as long as real drivers still have a button that switches every assist off and offers them full control of the vehicle whenever they choose. I am against using the "autonomous driving" theme purely as a marketing ploy though, and this is what Audi seems to be doing with the A7 piloted driving concept. First of all, the technology behind the concept car isn’t that futuristic anymore, as a number of mass-produced cars have been able to technically drive themselves on the open road since 2013 — all you need to do is tie a can of juice or something similar to the steering wheel so that the car "thinks" you’re still holding the wheel.

Nicknamed "Jack" by the development team behind it, the A7 concept car is fitted with a bunch of production-ready features that help its autonomous driving credentials, including a 3D camera, mid-range radar sensors and laser scanners. Second of all, this "autonomous" test drive will be made in two days, while trained journalists and who knows who else will take turns driving the car through cities. In other words, this isn’t quite the feat that Audi is trying to make everyone believe, but it’s more of a live commercial for autonomous driving technology. Hooray!

Audi RS7 Piloted Driving Concept

2015 Audi RS7 Piloted Driving Concept High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Press Release

At more than 550 miles of piloted highway driving with journalists behind the wheel, Audi is demonstrating the era of automated driving is nearly here. The long-distance test drive of the Audi A7 piloted driving concept car will show that unprecedented performance can be achieved with series production technology. The drive will take place from Silicon Valley, California to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the International CES 2015 (Consumer Electronics Show), one of the world’s most important electronics trade shows.

„The test drive from the west coast of California to Las Vegas demonstrates our leadership role in piloted driving “, said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member and Head of Technical Development. The test drive in real world traffic and road conditions represents a joint effort by the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) und Volkswagen Group Research and Development, begins today in Stanford, CA. The Audi A7 piloted driving concept will drive more than 550 miles, approximately 900 kilometers.

The A7 piloted driving concept utilizes the latest technologically advanced systems developed by Audi. The concept relieves the driver of driving duties from 0 to 70 mph, or just over 110 km/h. The car, that has been affectionately been named „Jack“ by the development team, can initiate lane changes and passing maneuvers. In addition, the A7 piloted driving concept accelerates and brakes independently. Before initiating a lane change to the left or the right, the vehicle adapts its speed to surrounding vehicles. If the speed and distance calculation is deemed safe, the vehicle initiates the lane change with precision and in a timely manner.

The piloted concept vehicle utilizes a combination of various sensors, many of which are close to production ready. The long range radar sensors of the adaptive cruise control (ACC) and the Audi side assist (ASA) keep watch of the front and rear of the vehicle. Two mid-range radar sensors at the front and rear respectively are aimed to the right and left to complete the 360 degree view. Laser scanners are mounted within the Singleframe grille and the rear bumper skirt. The scanners deliver redundant information to provide detailed recognition of static and dynamic objets during piloted driving. The technologies are production ready including their vehicle integration and cost structure for vehicle production in the near future. A new hi-resolution 3D video camera, already integrated into the next generation systems found in the new Q7, takes a wide-angle view out in front of the vehicle. Four small front and rear mounted cameras view closer surroundings. Navigation data is used for basic vehicle orientation.

Before the piloted driving system reaches its limitations, in city environments for example, the driver is requested to take control of the vehicle to ensure proper safety. Multiple warning signales work in unison: colored LEDs at the base of the windshield, signals in the driver information display, a Central Status Indicator (CSI), as well as a acoustic warning indicator requires the driver to retake control. Should the driver ignore the signals, the system activates the hazard lights and brings the car to a full stop while minimizing any risk. In most instances the vehicle is stopped on the right emergency lane.

The training for the jounalist test drivers taking part in the 550 mile trek took place several weeks ago at the Arizona Proving Grounds. Each journalist will drive approximately 100 miles utilizing the piloted driving system. A trained Audi professional test driver will accompany the media from the passenger seat for added safety.

Audi will present its “Next Chapter” at CES from January 6th through 9th, 2015 in Las Vegas. The technologies of today and the projects of tomorrow will be presented at one of the most relevant, trendsetting electronic trade shows in the world. The primary topic will be the the connected car with its surroundings. Piloted driving, new user and display interfaces, modern infotainment and new Audi connect solutions, as well as LED and laser-matrix lighting technologies will be presented. These and additional highlights will be shown as part of the world premiers: a show car and the interior model of the new Audi Q7*.

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