Audi A8 2019: The Audi That Drives Itself in Traffic

Audi A8 2019: The new A8 is the first production car that is capable of level 3 self-driving.

Traffic Jam Pilot: This is the name given by Audi to the system which allows the A8 to conduct itself completely autonomously in the traffic jams.

I am on board the new Audi A8 2019 with Daniel Lepczyk, engineer for the development of autonomous driving systems at Audi. We drive smoothly in one of the many traffic jams that run on a daily basis during rush hour in this northern region of North Rhine-Germany, home to nearly 8 million people and converging several autobahnen. The scenario is the same as in us and everywhere else in the world. The cars and trucks advance slowly and then stop and start again after a period of time ranging from a few seconds to almost half a minute.

Rather than protest against this state of affairs, we watch the news bulletin on the central screen of the A8 as it moves on its own. It follows its course in the curves by advancing and stopping in a very fluid way as if it were driven by a very experienced driver, anxious to preserve the comfort of its passengers.

Stress flies:
Daniel Lepczyk explains to me that you could just as easily read and send emails, surf the web or even consult his diary, always by means of the central screen, having previously paired his phone portable to the car through the Bluetooth connection.

Completely freed from the sometimes stressful task of controlling the A8 in dense traffic, the driver can go about anything without intervening in any way on the movement of the car, which rolls in the middle of the track when the traffic flow is faster, but which automatically approaches one of the sides of the track before the stop, to free space between the two tracks. This space could be used for an emergency vehicle traveling in this safety corridor to get to the scene of the accident that causes the cork.

Essential conditions:

The Audi A8 2019, therefore, becomes the first series-equipped vehicle with level-3 stand-alone driving. For this to happen, several conditions must be met. The car must be driven on a highway where the tracks are clearly identified and where a physical separation, such as a low wall or a railing, is located between the lanes used and those on which the traffic is moving in the opposite direction. Also, the speed should not exceed 60 km / h.

The Traffic Jam Pilot, therefore, can not operate in an urban environment, where there are pedestrians and cyclists, or on secondary roads. It is only functional on the highway and at low speed only. When conditions permit, the driver can press the AI (Audi Intelligence) control button, located on the center console, to engage the system and see a new visual on the screen of the virtual cockpit, meaning that the Traffic Jam Pilot is now in control of the A8.

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Traffic Jam Pilot is a very sophisticated system that uses 12 ultrasonic sensors located at the front, rear and sides of the car, four 360 degree cameras placed at the front, a front camera mounted at the top of the windscreen, four medium-range radars installed at each corner of the car, a long-range radar mounted at the front, a laser type Li-DAR, as well as a camera integrated in the dashboard that is pointed towards the driver to ensure that it is alert.

All these sensors, cameras and radars send their data to the central controller, called ZFAS by Audi, housed under the driver’s seat and which alone is more powerful than all the other systems integrated with the previous generation of the Audi A8. It is this controller that creates a 360-degree portrait of the environment in which the car evolves.

Audi engineers have also ensured that all systems are “duplicated”. Thus, in the case where the camera can not “see” through the fog, the radars are able to do so. In addition, if the antilock brake system that controls braking while the car is running in standalone mode is missing, an electric motor exerts pressure on the brake pedal. And if the ZFAS controller fails, the long-range radar mounted at the front takes over.

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On the road:
when the traffic flow exceeds 60 km / h Traffic Jam Pilot alert the driver that he must now regain control of his vehicle. First, the sides of the virtual cockpit and the AI symbol take on a red tint and an audible signal is heard. The driver must take the wheel in the next ten seconds.

If it does not, phase 2 is switched on and the A8 gradually slows down and then brakes dry three times, while the driver’s seat belt also automatically tightens three times. If the driver still does not intervene, perhaps because of discomfort, the system will stop the car completely, activate the hazard warning lights, unlock the doors and make an emergency call that allows first responders to locate the vehicle.

The legal framework:
Audi ‘s Traffic Jam Pilot meets the criteria for level 3 off – road driving, where the car takes over from the driver when conditions permit, and Audi asserts that the brand will assume full responsibility for the driver’ accident. For the time being, level 2 self-driving, which allows semi-autonomous driving with adaptive cruise control and keeping the car in its track for as long as the driver touches the steering wheel every ten seconds, is allowed in Germany and Florida only.

The brand management wants this legal framework to evolve in line with technological advances but must be consistent with the current one in each country and region. This is why the circulation of the Traffic Jam Pilot will be limited initially and will become more widespread in the future as the legislative framework catches up with that of technology.

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