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Frankfurt show: Audi showcases new autonomous tech

High five: Audi will be revealing a fully self-driving concept at the Frankfurt motor show, featuring level five autonomy.

Level four and five autonomous concept vehicles to be shown by Audi at Frankfurt

Audi logo11 Sep 2017

By ROBBIE WALLIS

UPDATED: 5.00PM 11/09/2017

AUDI will showcase its latest production and conceptual self-driving technologies at the Frankfurt motor show this week, including a pair of concept vehicles with level four and five autonomous capability.

Also on the Audi stand will be the new A8 luxury sedan with level three autonomous capability as standard, however the technology will not make it to Australian-spec flagship four-doors when they arrive Down Under in mid-2018.

The first autonomous concept is an SUV coupe based on the e-tron Sportback concept, measuring 4900mm in length and using the same 370kW, tri-electric motor powertrain.

In order to achieve level four autonomy, the concept vehicle uses a more advanced version of the A8’s central driver assistance controller (zFAS), which generates an image of its surroundings from sensor data, while the vehicle’s radar control unit does the same.

Meanwhile, a laser scanner can provide extra information on surrounding vehicles and their movements.

The Audi concept also employs artificial intelligence and machine learning, by communicating and sharing information with other vehicles through the use of cloud-based software.

Under level four autonomy, the first concept is capable of independently driving itself on the highway, including lane changes, at speeds of up to 130km/h.

The second concept is able to do one better by offering full, level five autonomy, meaning it can drive independently in all driving scenarios with equal capability to a human.

While no visual details have been revealed on the level five concept other than that it is a “full-size model” in the D-segment, Audi says the vehicle is designed primarily for long journeys with four electric motors and a driving range between 700 and 800km.

The German car-maker is claiming the concept will also sport new connectivity and communication features, as interaction with such technologies will be more prominent in vehicles that do not require driving.

As for the A8, its level three technology employs the zFAS Traffic Jam Pilot system to allow for hands-free driving in traffic moving at up to 60km/h, as detailed at its reveal in June.

However, the technology has not yet been declared road-legal anywhere in the world.

Audi believes its native Germany will be the first country to adopt the zFAS technology by 2018, and until such time that it is declared legal, the new kit will not be installed in any A8 vehicles.

It is the world’s first mass-production vehicle to be designed for level three automated driving in accordance with international standards, and Audi member of the board of technology development Dr Peter Mertens said at the international reveal of the A8 that the technology was significant for the future of driverless vehicles.

“This is going to be a game changer,” he said. “Self-driving cars need artificial intelligence as one of the key technologies allowing them to really cope with the complexity of traffic. With the new Audi A8, we are the first car-maker prepared for the introduction of level three pilot driving.

“What level three means, you take your hands off the steering wheel, and the car does the rest. This in turn, will pave the way for the next step, level four – high automation and specific automation, such as highway at all speeds.

We will raise the bar for our competition today … and of course in the future.”

Audi has also indicated a number of other reveals at this week's show including a rear-wheel-drive version of the flagship R8 supercar and the next-generation RS4 range-topping wagon.

The car-maker announced that Audi Sport will be showcasing for the first time a “limited special model with rear-wheel drive”, followed by a post on Instagram showing an R8 doing circlework, indicating the high-performance coupe has eschewed the traditional quattro all-wheel-drive set-up.

Also expected to feature at Frankfurt is the new-gen RS4 Avant, which will shed its old 4.2-litre aspirated V8 in favour of a new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 shared with the new RS5 coupe.

The new engine is expected to produce 331kW/600Nm, matching the power output of the bent eight while eclipsing its torque figure by 170Nm.

Audi’s A4 range has been without an RS variant since the ninth-generation range launched in February last year, with the Avant and S4 variants following over the next 12 months.

The Frankfurt motor show kicks off on September 12.

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