Audi Unveils an "Eyes-Off" Autonomous Car

The A8 Is a Self-Driving Vehicle, Under the Right Conditions


In the race to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market, Audi unveiled the first passenger car that's commercially ready for level 3 of autonomous driving, or so-called "eyes-off" driving.

According to SAE International, this level of autonomy will enable a driver to temporarily divert attention from controlling the vehicle. Cars classified as level 3 can self-drive at speeds of up to 60 kph.

The car-maker announced its Audi A8 vehicle last week at the Audi Summit in Barcelona. The A8 features an autonomous "traffic jam pilot" function, which, when activated, enables the car to take charge of driving in slow-moving traffic on major roads where a physical barrier separates oncoming traffic. The vehicle is capable of accelerating, braking, steering and starting without the need for direct human interaction.

The car uses technology from Nvidia as the brain of Audi's zFAS system, the computer that handles driver assistance. The computer gathers sensor data from the vehicle's radar, front-facing camera, lidar and ultrasound sensors to create a fused picture of the environment pieced together using different types of data. The zFAS platform decides how the car behaves when the traffic jam pilot is engaged, processing data at a rate of 2.5 billion inputs per second. The A8 has six Nvidia processors powering the traffic jam pilot, infotainment system and virtual cockpit instrumentation. Features will only be enabled by Audi if they comply with local laws within each jurisdiction.

The technology for self-driving cars is still just developing and so are regulation and consumer behaviour. The A8 sees Audi launching level 3 capability ahead of rivals such as Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Cadillac. These manufacturers all have semi-autonomous driving assistance systems on the market, but their solutions require some level of driver attention and engagement with the steering wheel, which equates to level 2 of autonomy.

Audi has been working with Nvidia on self-driving technology and plans to release a level 4, or "mind-off", autonomous vehicle by 2020. At this level, cars can handle themselves at highway speeds and in heavier traffic in predefined areas. The real magic begins when vehicles reach level 5 and don't require steering wheels.

For now, the Audi A8 with level 3 autonomy is a big step forward in advanced driving technology. However, the need for driver intervention has been cited by manufacturers such as Ford as problematic because of the dangers of setting overly high user expectations and a loss of concentration. We believe that levels 2 and 3 of autonomy will increasingly be marketed as driver assistance modes rather than self-driving car features, as the industry moves cautiously toward full autonomy.

SAE International's Levels of Driving Automation

Autonomy Level

Definition

Level 0
No Automation

Driving is entirely controlled by a driver.

Level 1
Driver Assistance

The majority of functions are controlled by a driver. The vehicle may perform a specific function, such as braking, steering or accelerating, under certain circumstances.

Level 2
Partial Automation

At least one driver assistance system controls steering, acceleration and deceleration using information about the driving environment. This means a driver can have hands and feet off steering and pedals, but must be ready to take full control of the vehicle.

Level 3
Conditional
Automation

Driving and safety-critical functions are controlled by the vehicle but a driver is still required to take control under certain traffic or environmental conditions. A main difference from level 2 is that rather than just staying in lane and controlling speed, the car will make decisions to change lane and overtake, for example.

Level 4
High Automation

This is full autonomy in that vehicles are designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and to monitor road conditions for an entire trip. However, this does not cover every conceivable driving scenario.

Level 5
Full Automation

A fully autonomous system that can account for any driving scenario including extreme weather and environments.

 

Source: SAE International, J3016

 

This entry was posted on July 17th, 2017 and is filed under Devices. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or you can leave a response.

Posted By Raghu Gopal On July 17th, 2017


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