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Audi A7 Piloted Driving: Autopilot autonomously on the motorway

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Audi A7 Piloted Driving Concept in the driving report
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E s is one of the really big topics in things Mobility: In addition to increasing efficiency and electromobility, the automotive industry is working flat out on automated driving. The car manufacturer has shown that Audi is at the forefront of this with a piloted drive over the Hockenheimring and the 560-mile test on a US highway from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas. The technology works. What the German auto industry has so far been missing is the possibility of testing the test vehicles under real conditions in Germany.

The Audi A7 drives automatically up to a speed of 130 km

There is now a corresponding route on the A9 motorway between Ingolstadt and Nuremberg on a 50 km long section. This ensures that the technology of the Audi A7 Piloted Driving Concept is not confronted with unpredictable surprises. In other words: the lane markings and the hard shoulder are completely and continuously available, real-time traffic data and knowledge of the current construction site situation are guaranteed. The cameras and numerous sensors (laser, ultrasound, radar) for monitoring streets and traffic can work as precisely as possible. This is important because, compared to the test vehicle that drove on the racetrack, the A7 hardly uses GPS data for piloted driving in road traffic.

Of course, it still tickles the nerves a little when the autopilot is used is turned on for the first time. Give up the steering wheel? Here, where the dense but still quite fluid traffic demands so much concentration? Shortly after entering the motorway, the time has come. The technology reports via an acoustic signal and the turquoise LED strip on the dashboard. The A7 is now ready to drive itself. To hand over control to him, the driver simultaneously presses two buttons on the steering wheel. Jack - that's the name of the test vehicle - automatically drives its occupants up to a speed of 130 (the sensors do not yet allow higher speeds). The car keeps its lane with a gentle steering movement, accelerates, brakes or overtakes independently. The biggest advantage here: where driving a car isn't really much fun because the eyes zap hectically between the windshield and the exterior mirrors to check or the right leg switches from accelerator to brake several times.the electronics ensure a relaxed journey.

No critical situations were detected during our journey, because the autopilot always acts defensively. For example, if the system detects a car rushing towards you from behind at high speed, an overtaking maneuver is sometimes canceled. It works so well that the technology already gives a lot of confidence after a few maneuvers.

The driver takes over after a 15-second handover phase

In addition, the driver can easily intervene at any time and take the helm again into his own hands. To end the autopilot, a simple steering movement, a step on the accelerator pedal or, of course, the brake is sufficient. If the system passes control back to the driver on its own, it initiates a transfer phase of around 15 seconds. The driver is then informed of the deactivation of the autopilot several times via acoustic and optical signals. This happens, for example, after a route predefined via the navigation system. If the driver did not take control again - for example because he was sleeping - the system would independently maneuver the car to the hard shoulder and bring it to a stop there. Of course, we didn't try it out.

With piloted driving on the A9, Audi is showing the second stage of development in automated driving assistants. Before the technology can find its way into series vehicles, the traffic law framework must first be created. An important point on the agenda of Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt, who also got behind the wheel of the Audi A7 piloted driving concept. The CSU politician found piloted driving a “unique experience and absolutely safe driving” and is certain that “drivers will look forward to the new technology”. He himself would like to use the system today in traffic jams. But he doesn't have to wait long for that. Audi plans to offer the new A8 with a traffic jam pilot and piloted parking function as early as 2017 - the preliminary stage for piloted driving would then be reached. At the IAA in September 2015, Dobrindt wants to present new, internationally valid draft laws in order to further promote fully automated driving.

For more information on the piloted Audi A7 and how we experienced the drive, read the Photo show.

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