Autonomous Audi A7 “Jack” shows social competence

Audi has been doing some incredibly impressive stuff with autonomous drive, such as creating the autonomous Audi RS7 twins, “Robby” and “Bobby“, that were capable of lapping race tracks faster than humans. Audi also sent an autonomous TTS up the famous Pikes Peak on its own. So Audi knows a thing or to about piloted driving, as the brand calls it.

Now, though, Audi has taken things a step further with its latest piloted Audi A7, named “Jack” (as pictured above).

Apparently, Jack knows how to perform nearly every driving maneuver necessary to drive on a public motorway. Jack has been throroughly programmed to understand nearly all driving situations and react to them in real time, sometimes even ahead of time, and, more importantly, react as a human would. For instance, if Jack needs to change lanes, it will put on its indicator and inch closer to that lane, much like a human would, to signal the drivers in that lane that Jack needs to get over. It will also react to drivers trying to merge onto a motorway and either speed up or slow down, so as to let the oncoming driver in easier. Jack will also pass large trucks with a wider lateral gap between it and the truck, just as a human would. All of this is called “social competence” and Jack is displaying that remarkably. Imagine that, an Audi driver with proper road manners?

Audi RS7 piloted driving concept
Audi RS7 piloted driving concept

Jack is controlled by what Audi calls a zFAS, which is sort of like a super brain that is compromised of state-of-the-art high performance processors that react to information from sensors in real time. The zFAS actual creates a digital map of the cars surroundings using the sensors, so it can actually be proactive, as opposed to just reactionary. This, combined with clever programming, allows Jack to have all the necessary road manners that a human would have so it can drive along a motorway ready for any situation.

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Audi tested Jack on the A9 autobahn, announced by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, and it was able to display the sort of social competence Audi was hoping for. But it isn’t just going to stop there. Audi is looking toward the future as well, with connected infrastructure, Car-to-X, as well as Car-to-Car technology. Car-to-X is when certain aspects of the roadways and infrastructures, such as traffic lights and stop signs, are connected to a local network and the cars on it. This allows the car to communicate with traffic lights and what not, allowing it to understand where and when it can stop and go, as opposed to just reacting to sensors. Car-to-Car communication is when the cars are all connected to a local network together and can communicate with each other, allowing information like an upcoming road hazard to be communicated to all of the cars on the road, which will allow the piloted cars to understand what to do ahead of time, rather than just reacting to it in real time.

This sort of piloted technology, with all of this connectivity, could make driving far safer in the future. While fully-piloted driving might be many years away, piloted highway driving isn’t that far off of an idea. Audi’s self-piloted Jack is proof of that and proof that Audi may be ahead of every other automaker in terms of self-piloting technology.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.