Audi hits the highway to demonstrate latest self-driving car technology at CES

By on January 9, 2014, 5:45 PM
ces, audi, self driving car, ces 2014, autonomous car

Audi was on hand at the Consumer Electronics Show once again to showcase their latest efforts in the field of self-driving vehicles. Unlike last year’s demonstration which was limited to an Audi A6 Avant navigating a parking garage at a snail's pace, the auto maker took guests for a spin on the local highway this time around.

For this demonstration, Audi simplified the self-driving technology and managed to shrink the components down to fit into a unit that’s roughly half the size of a shoe box. Here’s how it works.

The Audi A7 test vehicle is equipped with a digital camera, laser scanner and a radar system hidden in the front grill. According to Dr. Bjorn Giesler, Audi’s Project Leader of Development of Piloted Driving, there’s nothing on the roadway that one of these systems can’t detect. That’s reassuring.

The demonstration wasn’t a full-on self-driving clinic, mind you, but perhaps something that can best be described as adaptive cruise control with autonomous steering. Passengers were driven to Interstate 15 with a full police escort and a number of other Audi vehicles to assist in the demonstration.

Once on the highway, the cops blocked all four lanes and the show was under way. Speeds slowed to around 40 mph and the system was activated. From there, the other Audi cars would take turns simulating different traffic scenarios. For example, one car would merge in front of the A7 which prompted it to slow down and give the other driver enough room. When that car changed lanes, the A7 would speed back up to fill the gap.

There are of course some safety features built into the system as well. At one point, Giesler closed his eyes and folded his hands in his lap. After a few seconds, the car started to ding in an attempt to get his attention. After several seconds, the vehicle started to apply the brakes and ultimately came to a complete stop.

The system is designed to make sure the driver doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel. If it detects your eyes are closed, it’ll kick into the aforementioned safety mode. I wonder how this system would react if the driver was wearing sunglasses?

Giesler said they don’t see the car replacing the driver completely but rather wish to enhance the comfort of the driving experience. Anything they can do to make the driver safer and more comfortable is fair game, he noted.

Audi said this technology will be present in production models within five years.




User Comments: 9

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3 people like this | WithoutAnyMilk WithoutAnyMilk said:

Sooner or later, once this kind of technology is perfected and the overreaching hand of government tyranny tightens further, we will be deemed "too stupid and irresponsible" to drive our own cars. Either that, or we will be told that, in the interest of our safety, new regulations will be passed requiring all cars to be equipped with this sort of tech. Eventually, you probably won't be able to break the speed limit if you wanted to. Of course, the texting-while-driving generation's continued negative press will help to usher this in.

While the tech itself is admittedly cool, I cannot help but see these sorts of things through a lens that shows the general population losing control of their own decision-making abilities.

Being a cynic does come with its own set of issues, I guess.

dualkelly said:

Sooner or later, once this kind of technology is perfected and the overreaching hand of government tyranny tightens further, we will be deemed "too stupid and irresponsible" to drive our own cars. Either that, or we will be told that, in the interest of our safety, new regulations will be passed requiring all cars to be equipped with this sort of tech. Eventually, you probably won't be able to break the speed limit if you wanted to. Of course, the texting-while-driving generation's continued negative press will help to usher this in.

While the tech itself is admittedly cool, I cannot help but see these sorts of things through a lens that shows the general population losing control of their own decision-making abilities.

Being a cynic does come with its own set of issues, I guess.

Some of your assumptions are way off base... humans are horrible drivers and once full automation is implemented a vast majority of car accidents will be a thing of the past and it couldn't happen too soon. One of the driving costs in healthcare is care for accident victims and its not the texting generation that are the cause of most accidents as accidents happened just as much before texting was an option however I am sure the increase of kids on the road wont help this statistic. However once full automation is in place speed limits will not really be an issue so much as cars can drive faster and traffic jams will be completely gone.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

I am not a bad driver I am a very good driver it's stamped on my driver licence for years now. Tech behind the wheel will get to the point where these vehicles will fly off the ground and you'll have a friend for the brains that will take care of you while you sleep on the drive home. Might not until 3,000 AD.

Forg0t2 said:

None of the regular people can drive a car. If you only knew how much the software is correcting the average driver's behavior. If it wasn't for this kind of technology a lot more deadly accidents would happen.

I'm sorry I have to break the nice story but the shoe-box sized technology is just the control device. You can't fit all the actuators in a shoe-box. In some countries it is forbidden to use drive-by-wire or steer-by-wire and therefor there must be a mechanical link between (for example) the steering wheel and the axle that actually steers the wheels. But I do agree on the fact that the control technology has gotten smaller significantly the last 5 years...

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

If you turn off the bells and whistles then would be like driving a 1975 car. So what if the computer is control the brake plus called VSS and ABS, and how you steer into a skid. The computer can only act on what is was programmed to do. At times it better to take over yourself.

Nobina Nobina said:

Sooner or later, once this kind of technology is perfected and the overreaching hand of government tyranny tightens further, we will be deemed "too stupid and irresponsible" to drive our own cars. Either that, or we will be told that, in the interest of our safety, new regulations will be passed requiring all cars to be equipped with this sort of tech. Eventually, you probably won't be able to break the speed limit if you wanted to. Of course, the texting-while-driving generation's continued negative press will help to usher this in.

While the tech itself is admittedly cool, I cannot help but see these sorts of things through a lens that shows the general population losing control of their own decision-making abilities.

Being a cynic does come with its own set of issues, I guess.

I don't like this tech too for the same reason. Good thing is that in my country this technology will come about 30 years later than in others.

Forg0t2 said:

I think the tech is good for several reasons. I've been seeying some really nice and trust worthy results...

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

Sooner or later, once this kind of technology is perfected and the overreaching hand of government tyranny tightens further, we will be deemed "too stupid and irresponsible" to drive our own cars. Either that, or we will be told that, in the interest of our safety, new regulations will be passed requiring all cars to be equipped with this sort of tech. Eventually, you probably won't be able to break the speed limit if you wanted to. Of course, the texting-while-driving generation's continued negative press will help to usher this in.

While the tech itself is admittedly cool, I cannot help but see these sorts of things through a lens that shows the general population losing control of their own decision-making abilities.

Being a cynic does come with its own set of issues, I guess.

I don't think it would happen for a few reasons. First, people freak out when technology invades their personal life. People like technology to be a choice and our over-reaching govt puts re-election (and therefore public opinion) pretty high on the priority list. People will not trust the tech. It's called Control Bias, and it means that people feel safer when they're in control, even if they're not. It's why people feel safer driving a car than flying in a plane, even though statistically they're not safer at all.

Second, hopefully we've learned our lesson by now that computers aren't smarter than people. Computers are better at computation, but not judgement and the most powerful systems are ones run by humans with the aid of computers, not ones run by computers. (This is explained well here... [link] )

Perhaps Audi will find the right balance.

So I think the future will be one of cars full of safety tech, perhaps to the point of being annoying. But there will always be a market for cars that are fun to drive. People don't care about safety as much as they care about comfort, control and speed.

Personally... I'd LOVE to be able to sleep behind the wheel on a long trip, so I hope they figure it out.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

Now we just need quantum encryption to protect this tech.

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