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Autonomy held back by laws: Audi

Ghost rider: Audi has been developing autonomous technology for some time and showed off its wares with a driverless RS7 that clocked speeds of 240km/h at Germany’s Hockenheimring race track last year.

Audi chief says autonomous technology will be ready before the legislators

4 Dec 2015

AUTONOMOUS driving will be here more quickly than people expect, but Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle said he believes it will be legislative and insurance concerns that dictate exactly when full autonomy will be possible on local roads.

Mr Doyle was speaking at the pre-launch technology reveal of the new A4 range, which includes a Traffic Jam Assist function that allows the car to creep forward without accelerator or steering inputs from the driver.

“Autonomy is still a number of years away,” he told GoAuto.

But he added that it would be the legal ramifications and the insurance ramifications that would dictate the timing.

There were also other factors that might slow down the adoption of autonomous driving in some countries, according to Mr Doyle.

“There’ll be certain mapping required, of course, and which countries will be ready, and not ready, in terms of road quality, so that will be a difference,” he said.

“Effectively we have proven it can be done. Not just Audi, but others, have proven it can be done as well, so the technology does exist. Now it’s got to be scalable. That’s the trick.”

Mr Doyle said recent experience in electronics has shown that car-makers and their vehicles are likely to be ready sooner than expected.

“Put it this way, what we are finding more and more over time is technology is exponentially getting faster. What we thought, two years ago, could have happened by today, has been exceeded.

“I don’t want to predict too quick a timeline, but I think it will come quicker than we think, in terms of full technology availability.

“Then, as I say again, the question will be who’s ready for it, from a governmental point of view.”

He said the issues that governments and insurance companies need to grapple with is how to decide who is at fault when something goes wrong with an autonomous car.

“There should be less crashes, less payouts … and less parts sales: that’s not so good,” he said with a smile.

“But there are tricky questions to answer. Who’s at fault when there is an accident, or who’s more at fault? These things have to be apprised.”

Mr Doyle said it would not be so simple as allowing the judge in court to examine the engine control unit memories of the vehicle or vehicles involved.

That would be a question of privacy and who is allowed access to the data.

“We are talking about a minefield now,” he said.

Mr Doyle stopped short of describing the Traffic Jam Assist function as autonomous driving.

“I think where we are today, we are about convenience today. Traffic Jam Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control are fantastic for those of us using them on a regular basis.

“It really is quite a relaxing way to drive while still remaining in contact with the car.”

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