The New Audi A8 to be the First Production Car With Level 3 Autonomy

Audi just unveiled its new flagship A8 at the Audi Summit in Barcelona, Spain.The new A8 will be the first production car developed specially for highly automated driving.

Eric Walz
    Jul 11, 2017 5:38 PM  PT
The New Audi A8 to be the First Production Car With Level 3 Autonomy
author: Eric Walz   

Audi has launched the most advanced self-driving car available on the roads. The Volkswagen-owned brand unveiled its new flagship A8 saloon on Tuesday, July 11th at the Audi Summit in Barcelona, Spain. The car will spearhead the company's attempts to reclaim the technological lead over arch rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The new flagship 2018 A8 features a multitude of high-tech features, which are all powered by NVIDIA.

The A8 will go on sale next year and be the first production car "developed specially for highly automated driving". Its AI software, activated by the click of a button, is designed for slow-moving traffic at up to 37 mph. The system is designed so that the car will hand back control to the driver in the event of an emergency.

AI Traffic Jam Pilot

Audi's AI Traffic Jam Pilot, which offers unprecedented levels of autonomy on crowded highways instantly grabbed headlines. However, it was just one of many new features powered by NVIDIA technologies.

The new Audi A8 is packed with NVIDIA powered systems, including new user interfaces, a new infotainment system, a new virtual cockpit, and new rear seat entertainment options.

The autonomous program is powered by hardware including radar, camera and ultrasonic sensors, and Audi said it is also the first carmaker to use laser scanners. The car can also read traffic signs, gather information on hazards and "draw on the swarm intelligence of the Audi fleet" to learn further.

"The car of the future will make its occupants' life easier with the help of artificial intelligence," Audi Chairman of the Board Rupert Stadler said at the event's keynote.

"Technology matters" he declared as he introduced such A8 features as Audi AI Traffic Jam Pilot, Remote Park Pilot, Natural Voice Control and Swarm Intelligence.

The most intriguing feature of the car that allows drivers to sit back and watch television while the vehicle drives itself at speeds of up to 37 mph in heavy traffic is also highly controversial.

Take Your Hands Off the Wheel

Audi said that its system is dependent on laws coming into force that allow motorists to take their hands off the wheel.

"The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently," the company said. "They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, depending on the national laws, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV."

2.5 Billion Inputs per Second

The Traffic Jam Pilot system is designed from the ground up with built-in redundancy. The world's first production system to use a laser scanner combined with cameras to drive autonomously, it scans the entire area in front of the car. Data from sensors are processed in Zfas as the system creates a precise environment model at the rate of 2.5 billion inputs per second.

Level 3 Autonomy

Levels of autonomy in cars are measured on a scale of zero to five, where zero has no automation and five can handle all situations and all terrain, allowing steering wheels and pedals to be removed entirely. Audi said its new A8 flagship saloon is the first example of so-called level 3 technology that will be available to drive on the roads.

Bernhard Weidemann, a spokesman at Daimler, said Audi was not unique in having level three hardware, but he said there was a big difference between having the capability and having the permission.

"A level 3 system is not allowed on the streets," he said. "Technically you can do it, but to convince a regulatory body that our customers can do this is a different question."

Audi, in a press release, only alluded to this problem for customers, saying "the statutory framework will need to be clarified in each individual market."

In-Car Entertainment Options

In addition to self-driving technology, the Audi A8 features the newest NVIDIA powered MIB+ infotainment system. Its two touch screens, second-generation virtual cockpit and the new rear seat system with Audi tablets and display controller all feature NVIDIA technology.


The Audi A8 Becomes Your Chauffeur

At speeds up to 37mph, Traffic Jam Pilot can be enabled, turning the car into a chauffeur. Sensors watching the surroundings to give a precise understanding of the environment, and are coupled with the navigation system that knows on which roads the system is enabled.

To engage the system, the driver simply presses the AUDI AI button on the center console. Once traffic dissipates, visual and auditory alerts prompt the driver to take control again.

In the U.S., the consultancy AlixPartners has estimated that $325 billion could be saved each year from accident avoidance, fuel savings, congestion savings and more efficiency as a result of self-driving cars. Intel has estimated that the cost of crashes globally is $871 billion a year.