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Driverless Audi RS7 to cut hot laps at Hockenheim

Robot racer: With electronic brains able to tackle challenging race tracks, future driver assistance and safety systems will be able to cope with more and more driving scenarios.

Audi RS7 to demo autonomous driving tech with hands-free Hockenheim hot laps

13 Oct 2014

AUDI will demonstrate its autonomous driving technology at Hockenheim race track on October 19, with a modified RS7 coupe tackling the circuit at racing speed without any inputs from a human driver.

The demonstration coincides with the final DTM German touring car championship race of the season, where the “piloted driving” RS7 concept is expected to achieve lap times of slightly more than two minutes and reach speeds of up to 240km/h.

For comparison, Fastestlaps.com lists a 2006 Audi R8 supercar with the 4.2-litre V8 engine as the 11th fastest road car to have lapped the Hockenheim GP circuit, having achieved a time of 2:00.65 minutes in April 2008.

Audi is yet to reveal the technology the driverless RS7 will use. Some autonomous cars follow a pre-determined GPS route around a circuit but in 2012 Stanford University in the United States demonstrated an Audi TTS coupe that could determine its own racing line around the Thunderhill Raceway in California.

The autonomous Audi’s lap time of just under 2:30 minutes was just a few seconds slower than that set by a professional driver in the same car and less than 15 seconds slower than the Thunderhill record for fastest “showroom class” car.

Autonomous cars have been taken to the track for some time, with BMW’s Track Trainer concept – a modified E90 330i sedan – first appearing on a 2007 episode of British TV show Top Gear and demonstrating its ability to replicate a hot lap of the Dunsfold test track.

The BMW Track Trainer was also demonstrated at circuits across Europe including Hockenheim, Lausitz, Valencia, Zandvoort and the Nurburgring Nordschleife, plus Laguna Seca in the United States.

Most recently, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas early this year, BMW showcased its latest autonomous driving technology with modified 2 Series and 6 Series coupes on a circuit demonstrating their ability to automatically correct oversteer or understeer situations when driving at the absolute limit and in the wet.

To cultivate interest and talent in autonomous driving technologies, Audi has established a competition called the Autonomous Driving Cup aimed at university students in computing and engineering disciplines.

Using an Audi-developed hardware platform, competitors must develop and build fully automated 1:8 scale race cars, creating their own automated driving functions and software to control the vehicles.

Competitors will be judged on vehicle and software performance plus the presentation and elegance of the solution.

Increasing numbers of car-makers are taking autonomous driving seriously as a way of eliminating accidents caused by human error, reducing driver fatigue and dealing with increasing levels of distraction for the person behind the wheel.

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