CES 2015: Audi and Mercedes Show Off Self-Driving Car Concepts

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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As Audi’s A7 sets off on an automated voyage from San Francisco to Las Vegas, Mercedes details its idea of ‘Luxury in Motion’

f-015-luxury-motion-mercedes-concept-self-driving-carAudi and Mercedes-Benz have both unveiled self-driving car concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 in Las Vegas, with Audi’s A7 setting off for the the event on an automated 550-mile drive from San Francisco.

Last year on a similar voyage Audi’s self-driving car systems failed and a human drive had to take over, but this year the company said the prototype’s sensors are “production-ready”.

Sensors

The research car, called “Jack”, includes the same long-range forward radar used in production cars for adaptive cruise control, as well as two rear-facing and two side-facing radar sensors. A laser scanner behind the grille serves as a redundant sensor to aid with detecting solid objects, while a forward-facing 3D camera and four smaller cameras on the car’s corners help with navigation.

The car relies on these sensors, as well as GPS data, to control braking, acceleration and steering for the system Audi calls “Piloted Driving”, which on freeways can initiate lane changes and passes.

When the car enters an urban area a human driver must currently take over, and if the driver doesn’t respond the car will pull over to the side of the road, Audi said.

‘Luxury in Motion’

Mercedes’ F 015 “Luxury in Motion” concept (pictured) looks further ahead to technology that turns cars into “mobile homes in the very best sense of the word”, said Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, at a CES keynote presentation.

The concept car’s doors open carriage-style from the centre to reveal four seats facing inward – although any seat can “float” into the driving position, where a steering wheel is provided for the “occasions when the driver wants to drive”, Zetsche said.

The car was shown picking up a driver who summoned it with a smartphone app, and replaces control buttons with proximity controls and trackers that detect hand gestures. Its windows can be used as screens and the doors contain touchscreens for navigation and to provide views outside the car.

Zetsche said a number of issues need to be resolved before self-driving cars can become a reality, including the technology for driving in extreme weather conditions and questions around data privacy and legal questions in the event of a crash.

“Still, that does not keep us from looking further ahead,” he said.

Google prototype hits the roads

While Google’s self-driving car project doesn’t target the luxury market, the search company last month showed off what it called its “first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving”.

The prototype follows another version shown in May, and features real headlights and a more streamlined light-detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensor on the roof.

Google said the car will begin testing on Northern California’s roads this year.

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