When the 2019 Audi A8 made its big debut, the headline wasn’t its looks or its luxury or even its performance. It was the A8’s Level 3 autonomy, an industry first. If all the conditions are ideal, the Audi A8 is capable of completely driving itself at speeds up to 37 mph (60 kph). That means steering, throttle, braking, the works. However, Audi seems to think it’s capable of even faster speed, speeds of up to 81 mph (130 kph).
According to Peter Mertens, Audi’s head of technical development, the new Audi A8’s Traffic Jam Pilot (the cute name for its autonomous tech) is already capable of these speeds “and potentially more, because it has built-in redundancies already for steering, for braking, for [the] electrical system” he told CNET’s Roadshow. Though, Mertens acknowledges the challenges of higher speeds, saying “it gets tougher because things happen much, much faster. You need to have a faster calculation, sensor fusion, decision taking. Decision taking becomes more critical.”
Although, Audi is already having a difficult time getting this technology through legislation for many countries, including both Germany and the US, at 37 mph. So it will be even more difficult to eventually get it through at higher speed. This is the first time any automaker has attempted to get a car with Level 3 self-driving tech to pass legislation, ever. So Audi is in uncharted waters at the moment. It’s tricky, because there’s a lot of grey area in assigning blame when the car makes a mistake and causing a crash. It does help that Audi is assuming responsibility if there’s a crash or accident that occurs on the watch of the Traffic Jam Pilot.
While other companies feel that Level 3 is an autonomous step that should be skipped, as the hand-off from autonomous control to driver control is messy, Audi feels otherwise. Companies like Ford, BMW and Volvo all feel that self-driving tech shouldn’t be released until at least Level 4, where the car doesn’t ever really have to hand control over to a driver. But Mertens feels that would be too much of a shock to the public, where all of the sudden there are completely self-driving cars driving around among everyone else. “I always say … it’s not something where at one point of time you see a quantum leap in functionality and all of a sudden autonomous drive is there in all its beauty, and everywhere [is] Level 4 and 5. It’s more step by step by step by step.”
The Audi A8 isn’t out just yet, and won’t hit roads until next yet, so there’s still no word on whether or not its current system will pass legislation. When it does, though, we know it will be able to drive itself at speeds of 37 mph but will technically be capable of much more.