2017 Frankfurt Motor Show: Audi hints at driverless future

2017 Frankfurt Motor Show driverless Audi concept_main

AUDI plans to roll out a pair of highly autonomous concept cars at this week's Frankfurt Motor Show, including one vehicle it claims won't even need anyone sitting in the driver's seat.

The German luxury carmaker will use the show to tease the all-new A8 limousine, which will include Level 3 autonomy to help the driver negotiate peak-hour traffic by taking over most of the tedious task of negotiating slow traffic.

However, the brand has also flagged it wants to show another two steps on the path to autonomy, featuring a Level 4 concept car that will still rely on handing control back to the driver when it encounters conditions it is unable to recognise  such as a sudden torrential downpour or unexpected roadworks – and a Level 5 concept car that is capable of driving itself almost all the time.

"The new A8 is the world’s first volume-production car to be designed for conditional automated driving at level 3 in accordance with international standards," Audi said.

"On highways and multi-lane motorways with a physical barrier separating the two directions of traffic, the Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes over the driving task in slow-moving traffic up to 60km/h.

"The system handles starting from a stop, accelerating, steering and braking in its lane. If the driver has activated the traffic jam pilot at the AI button on the center console, they can take their foot off the accelerator and their hands off the steering wheel for longer periods.

"Unlike at Level 2, they no longer need to monitor the car permanently and, depending on current national regulations, can turn to other activities supported by the on-board infotainment system. The driver must remain alert and capable of taking over the task of driving when the system prompts them to do so."

That will mean the A8 will have a higher level of autonomy than current Australian road rules will allow.

The Level 4 vehicle, meanwhile, will be based on an unnamed SUV sitting somewhere between the Q5 mid-size SUV and the larger Q7 and that uses the Audi e-tron Sportback concept as its inspiration. It will use a combination of three electric motors with a combined output of 370kW, and can take over a number of the driving tasks at speeds of up to 130km/h.

The Level 5 car is something more of a surprise. Designed for "long journeys" and flagging a future large limousine, it uses four electric motors with a claimed range of up to 800km between recharges.

"The interior and exterior design of the full-size model is spectacular and groundbreaking," Audi said. "It offers brand-new possibilities which an all-electric, self-driving car opens up for designers."

The Frankfurt Motor Show starts this week.

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