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Fully autonomous cars will not arrive by 2020: Audi
Despite current technologies, Audi says self-driving cars will not be ready by 2020
13 Mar 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN in Geneva
AUDI’S fully autonomous vehicles will not be ready for market until after 2020 – the deadline set by many leading car-makers – but the German prestige brand is continuing to roll out increasingly advanced driver-assist technology in product offerings including the incoming A8 flagship sedan.
Speaking to GoAuto at the Geneva motor show last week, Audi chairman of the board of management Rupert Stadler said development of self-driving technology was continuing apace but that production of fully autonomous cars was still several years away.
“We will see it first of all, with different levels of autonomous driving,” he said. “Today, everybody who has some certain driver assistance systems is operating on level two. So officially, we are not allowed to take your hands (off the steering wheel).”
Mr Stadler said the upcoming new-generation A8 – the brand’s technological flagship passenger car – will feature the most advanced self-driving technology brought to market from Audi.
“So with the eight (incoming A8), we will have the technology, which is programmed that you can take off your hands,” he said. “You get some signals where you’re within some seconds, you have to take command once again.”
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), level-one vehicles are defined as cars with driver assistance systems including stability and cruise control, while level two adds more systems working in conjunction with one another, such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.
Level-three vehicles, which will include the next A8, will be able to control all major functions including steering, acceleration and braking, but still requires drivers to be alert and on standby to retake control.
Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving system also makes its Model S and Model X all-electric vehicles fall under level-three classification.
“And then of course, the level four would be still a car with steering wheel, brake pedals, and gas pedals, but maybe it’s a different environment, so you can really relax,” Mr Stadler said. “Maybe if the steering wheel moves away, but it’s still on-board.
“And level five is, let’s call it, a ‘robo-taxi’. There is no brake or no gas or no steering wheel, because it is full autonomous driving which is level five.”
Mr Stadler said the complications in the technologies were not with the self-driving hardware – which often utilise a combination of cameras, radar, lidar, GPS and cloud-based computing and communication – but with the software governing the vehicles and making decisions on the fly.
“Believe me, we see now the complexity of software engineering with centrifusion, with camera laser technology, which has to come together on the A8,” he said. “It is highly complex and I can imagine today, with the experience of the last two years, what could require level four and what will require level five.
“We are working on that technology. Within the Volkswagen Group, we took the responsibility to develop level-five technology.
“We founded a company which is called Artificial Intelligence Driving. We will staff now the team with software engineers and whatever is needed and then it’s … of course.
“Maybe it will be behind 2020.”
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