Thanks to the brand’s new Audi AI Traffic Jam Pilot, the Audi A8 will be the first car in history to have SAE Level 3 Autonomy. In slow-moving highway traffic up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph), the all-new Audi A8 can completely handle the entire task of driving. That means steering, accelerating, braking and everything else in between.
There are a few systems on the market, like the ones in the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, that can do similar tasks. But they need to be continuously monitored and the driver must engage with the every so many seconds to keep the car’s autonomous systems engaged. This is done for safety reasons, so that the car knows the driver is still paying attention, as their systems can’t handle everything. These systems feature Level 2 autonomous technology.
However, the Audi A8’s system is so advanced that it doesn’t need such reminders. According to Audi, with Audi AI engaged, drivers can relax and let the car do its thing. Hell, drivers can even watch the news. In a recent press release, Audi claims “drivers no longer need to continuously monitor the vehicle and the road. They must merely remain alert and capable of taking over the task of driving when the system prompts them to do so.”
However, there are a few situational requirements for the system to work. The car must be on a multi-lane motorway, with a physical barrier separating the two directions of traffic and cannot exceed 60 km/h (37.3 mph). So this system truly is a traffic-jam autopilot, made for those boring slugs through traffic on the highway. It might as well be called the “Los Angeles Auto Pilot”.
The Audi AI system also continuously monitors the driver to make sure that they aren’t sleeping or incapable of retaking control of the car if needed.
“While traffic jam pilot is activated, a camera checks whether the driver is prepared to resume the task of steering if needed. It analyzes the position and movement of the head and eyes in order to generate anonymized data. If a driver’s eyes remain closed for an extended period, for example, the system prompts the driver to resume the driving task. The prompt to take over is given in three phases – ranging from visual and acoustic warnings all the way to an emergency brake application. If the speed exceeds 60 km/h (37.3 mph) or the traffic begins to clear, the traffic jam pilot informs drivers they need resume driving themselves. If the driver ignores this prompt and the subsequent warnings, the A8 is braked until it stops completely in its lane.”
At the moment, journalists from around the world are testing this new system in Düsseldorf, Germany. So expect to see quite a bit more about this system in the coming days.