TechWeek Europe takes a spin with Audi’s piloted driving technology
We’ve all been there – sitting in a seemingly endless traffic jam, staring aimlessly out of the window whilst slowly inching forward every few minutes. But what if the most boring or frustrating bits of driving could be passed over to the car itself?
Self-driving cars have been in the news a lot recently, as Google launched a prototype vehicle which it says is capable of delivering passengers safely and efficiently to their destination.
However many people are unwilling to hand over complete control of their journey to a machine, or just enjoy the experience of driving – so Audi has developed a way of combining the two with its piloted driving assistance.
Take the wheel
At an event at the famous Ascari racecourse in Spain this week, TechWeek Europe was introduced to Bobby – a prototype Audi RS7 concept car which the manufacturer says represents the next step forward in the driving experience.
Far from being just a dressed-up cruise control or automatic breaking function, Bobby looks to learn from its surroundings and the environment it will encounter to provide assistance to the driver wherever necessary.
This could range from everyday functions such as automatic braking and traffic jam warnings, but most strikingly, Bobby can also take over full control of the car if chosen to, freeing the driver to take on other tasks.
However Audi is keen to stress that its technology is not designed towards developing completely autonomous cars, as they want to keep the enjoyment of driving as part of the experience. Bobby’s piloted driving is still in the concept phase at the moment, but Audi sees major potential ahead for the technology if given the right support by the relevant bodies and authorities around the world.
“We believe that cars are continuously learning to see, to communicate, and to take decisions, by itself, Thomas Müller, Audi’s head of development for brakes, steering and driver assistance.
“Alongside electrification and connectivity, this is one of the three main drivers for the future of the automotive industry.”
One of the primary factors behind developing Bobby is safety, an area Audi is obviously keen to promote its leadership in. Ninety percent of all accidents are caused by driver error, the company says, meaning any kind of assistance that can be provided should play a huge role. Drivers will hopefully no longer be tempted to use their smartphones or other mobile devices whilst driving if they can pass over some control to the vehicle, Audi hopes, with the risk decreased significantly by improved car intelligence.
To get a proper taste of Bobby’s understanding and power, we were given a spin round the Ascari circuit in the car, after completing a few laps in a regular Audi RS7.
The difference between the two set of laps was truly astonishing – Bobby, which had ‘learnt’ the track during some sighter laps, was able to launch into corners and brake much harder than your reporter was brave enough to.
Seeing a car turn into a 90-degree corner with no hands on the wheel is a slightly unnerving experience to say the least, probably most similar to being on an individual rollercoaster cart.
This enjoyment of driving is another major motivation behind Audi’s reasons to develop and roll out its piloted driving technology. Relinquishing control of the car during certain situations, such as when stuck in traffic or during motorway travel, will free the driver to other task, whether is be completing work on a mobile device, or simply reducing their annoyance over their commute by listening to music or talking to a loved one.
“This is probably the most exciting time in my 13 years at Audi,” says Müller, and the next few years should prove to be equally as interesting for drivers all over the world.
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