Audi has been developing automated technologies for more than a decade with the intention of bringing these technologies to customers. Along the way, Audi set a record with the fastest autonomous drive—149 mph on the Hockenheimring racetrack—while, in parallel, developing and bringing to market the Level 2 “Audi adaptive cruise assist” technology available in today’s Audi automobiles.
The introduction of automated vehicle features represents an essential innovation that many hope can help significantly reduce the number of accidents that happen on our roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of the more than 2 million accidents that occur in the U.S. each year are the result of human error. Reducing that number even a small fraction could have a dramatic implication on drivers and passengers.
Audi envisions a future where, in certain situations, automated driving technologies allow motorists to hand over driving functions to new systems using sensors, cameras and artificial intelligence, which all combine to control steering, braking, acceleration, maneuvering, monitoring or even reacting to the road via GPS data or camera information that scan the road ahead. Audi is a leader in the efforts to build better public understanding and thus help to prepare for future mobility options. At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, a broad coalition of industry, non-profit and academic institutions launched a campaign to educate the public and policymakers about the potential and the reality of advanced vehicle technologies and automated vehicles.
Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) is developing digital content and hosts events across the country to introduce driver assistance and automated technology to consumers and policymakers; hold educational workshops to help federal, state and local officials make informed policy decisions; and develop educational materials to distribute to retail sales and customer service personnel. Audi is a founder and co-chair of PAVE.
It is incumbent on auto innovators to explain what automated technologies can and cannot do and the timeline for their availability. Audi has been at the forefront of this technology and remains a staunch proponent for its advancement, a leader for the transformation in mobility to improve system-wide efficiency, the potential for reducing traffic accidents and offering greater mobility.
Today’s automated Audi technologies
Automated vehicle technologies have several layers, both proactive and reactive, for different driving scenarios. These are often called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
Tiered into levels (see below), they combine a number of sensors and cameras to allow a vehicle to provide assistance for the driver. In today’s Audi vehicles, many are considered Audi pre sense® technologies and include, but are not limited to, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alerts; active cruise control; and lane keep assist with lane centering; and in select models, the air suspension in a vehicle can automatically raise on one side to help mitigate the severity of impending collisions.
Additionally, sensors around the vehicle can provide assistance with blind spot monitoring, delaying doors opening when a vehicle senses traffic while parallel parked and other features.
The future of Audi automated driving
The Level 2 “Traffic Jam Assist” feature available on the 2017 Audi A4 and Audi Q7 allows for semi-automated driver assistance at slower speeds. The driver must constantly be alert and aware, and intervene immediately as needed.
At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Audi introduced Elaine: The concept of our second all-electric vehicle – the e-tron Sportback. Elaine is equipped with Highway Pilot, which is designed to be able to take over driving and lane changing at highway speeds. Audi also introduced the Aicon concept vehicle. Illustrating its design vision for Level 5 automation, Aicon shows a premium experience for when drivers prefer to turn over control to the vehicle, designed with no pedals or steering wheel.
Continuing the pursuit toward automated driving, during the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, Audi exhibited the fully automated Audi AI:ME concept, representing a personal "third living space," alongside homes and workplaces. Designed to be emotionally intelligent and equipped empathetically, the Audi AI:ME concept car showcases how passengers might be able to use future technology to effortlessly navigate urban sprawls. It is designed for Level 4 automated driving, allowing passengers to relax, view VR content and even order food using eye-tracking technology. In a short amount of time, the AI:ME is familiar with the user's condition by observing their driving style and vital functions.
The History of Audi automated driving
- In 2005, researchers at the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Lab and Stanford University were fastest to complete a 132-mile course, winning that year’s DARPA Grand Challenge for automated vehicles.
- In 2009, an Audi TTS (AKA Shelley) sets the world speed record for automated vehicles with a top track speed of 210 km/h (130.5 mph).
- In 2010, an Audi TTS climbs Pikes Peak without a driver.
- In 2013, Audi is the first carmaker to test automated driving under real conditions in Nevada, and the first OEM to receive a Nevada autonomous driving license.
- In 2014, the U.S. states California and Florida follow; Audi is the first company to gain a California permit for testing. At Hockenheimring speedway, the Audi RS 7 automated driving concept completed a lap at racing speed without a driver present.
- In 2015, Audi was the first company to allow non-engineers in the driver’s seat of a car equipped with “Highway Pilot” technology on a 566-mile test drive from Silicon Valley, California, to CES in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- In 2016, Audi brought Level 2 automation to the road with “Traffic Jam Assist” feature available on the 2017 Audi A4 and Audi Q7 allows for partially automated driving at slower speeds. The driver must constantly be alert and aware, and intervene immediately as needed.
- In 2017 at the Audi Summit in Barcelona, Audi presented its Audi AI technology as well as the debut of the Audi A8 – a brand exhibition that showcased new concepts for automated driving.
- In 2017 Audi introduced in Germany a fully functional Level 3 automated driving prototype with "Traffic Jam Pilot" in the Audi A8.
- In 2017 at IAA, Audi double world premiered two concept cars, the Audi Aicon and Audi Elaine – that showed how the brand intends to further develop automated driving.
- In 2019 at CES, the PAVE coalition was launched to inform the public and policymakers about advanced vehicle technologies and self-driving vehicles, with Audi as a founding co-chair member.
- In 2020 at CES, Audi exhibited the AI:ME concept, showcasing the brand's fully automated vision vehicle representing the "third living space." The Audi AI:ME concept is a vehicle designed to be emotionally intelligently and is equipped empathetically. At CES, the Volkswagen Group announced the creation of Volkswagen Autonomy, co-headquartered in Silicon Valley and Germany. It is tasked with accelerating the advancement of automated technologies development, starting with commercial applications, for the greater group of Volkswagen brands, including Audi.
- In 2020, the Volkswagen Group completed its purchase of shares of Argo AI, sharing ownership with the Ford Motor Company. As a result, the Munich-based AID-Autonomous Intelligent Driving merged into Argo AI and became its European Headquarters and fifth Engineering Center worldwide.
Levels of automation
SAE International defines six levels of automation:
0. No Automation. The full-time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems.
1. Driver Assistance. The driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver perform all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task.
2. Partial Automation. The driving mode-specific execution by one or more driver assistance systems of both steering and acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver perform all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task.
3. Conditional Automation. The driving mode-specific performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene.
4. High Automation. The driving mode-specific performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.
5. Full Automation. The full-time performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver.
Note: Top track speed electronically limited in U.S. Always obey all speed and traffic laws. Driver Assistance features are not substitutes for attentive driving. See vehicle Owner’s Manual for further details, and important limitations.