Audi Unveils New Autonomous Concept At CES, Promises Production Model in 2020
The new Piloted Drive concept is based on the Q7 SUVby Ciprian Florea, on
German automaker Audi has revealed a new Piloted Driving concept at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. Developed in cooperation with Nvidia, which provided artificial intelligence for the self-driving car, the new Piloted Driving model is based on the Q7 SUV and brings Audi’s autonomous system closer to production stage.
The autonomous SUV is the fifth concept in a long line of Piloted Driving experimental vehicles that goes back to 2014. It all started with RS7, which was also used to lap the Nurburgring, and in early 2015 the German company unveiled a similar vehicle based on the Prologue concept. Later that year, Audi rolled out a version based on the now-discontinued R8 E-Tron electric supercar, while 2016 brought an improved version built around the A7 sedan. In 2010, a very early version of the system was used in a TTS that piloted itself up the Pikes Peak course.
The Q7 Piloted Driving is a more advanced version of Audi’s upcoming autonomous system, using new "deep learning" technology for handling real-road complexities. The vehicle uses what Audi describes as "neural networks" and "end-to-end deep learning" on Nvidia’s latest artificial intelligence platform to navigate complex road courses. The Piloted Driving concept can learn from both the road and the driver and can now handle all sorts of upredictable scenarios, including roadblocks, construction sites, and changes in weather.
Displayed in the Gold Lot, adjacent to the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the vehicle was showcased performing several laps around a closed course, with the configuration of the track modified in the middle of the demonstration. Audi says it will expand testing of the Piloted Driving technology on public roads in California and select states in the U.S. before launching the world’s first vehicle to meet standards of Level 3 automation (as defined by SAE International) to the market.
This won’t happen until 2020, but meanwhile Audi will introduce Traffic Jam Pilot, which uses a central driver assistance controller, with NVIDIA hardware and software, in the next-generation A8. This system will give drivers the option to turn over steering, throttle, and braking functionality to the vehicle at speeds of up to 35 mph when certain conditions are met.
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Why it matters
Although Audi isn’t the only carmaker working on an autonomous car, Ingolstadt’s Piloted Driving system seems to be the most advanced. With more than six years of experience with self-driving platforms, there’s a good chance that Audi will actually become the first company to deliver a fully functional autonomous passenger car that’s safe in just about any environment. The Piloted Driving concepts have become better and better since the RS7 was launched in 2014, and the fact that the latest iteration is based on the Q7 is a sign that there won’t be just one autonomous nameplate, but a version for more models in the lineup. Which will come first is a mystery as of this writing, but it’s safe to assume that the A8, A7, and Q7 are among the main candidates.
Read our full review on the Audi Q7 here.