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Driven to distraction: Audi demonstrates self-driving cars

autos Updated: Jan 28, 2013 14:47 IST
Driven to distraction: Audi demonstrates self-driving cars

Audi's new autonomous car concepts will not only make owners feel like a famous fictitious secret agent, they are also designed to make the stress of driving in dense traffic and trying to park in narrow spaces a thing of the past.

In "Tomorrow Never Dies," James Bond eludes his captors by hiding on the back seat of his car and driving it via a remote control located in his mobile phone. When the film came out in 1997, some remarked that it was a little far-fetched, but autonomous and remote-control car technologies have existed for many years, and now, a little more than a decade later, Audi is essentially demonstrating the exact same features -- minus the heat-seeking missiles and smokescreen -- on two of its executive sedans.

Whereas in the Bond film, the technology was designed to protect the dashing secret agent from henchmen working for a maniacal media baron, Audi's systems have been installed in two vehicles, one created to save drivers from the drudgery of gridlocked roads and the other from the stress of trying to park and exit a vehicle.

First publically demonstrated in an Audi A6 Avant as part of this year's International Consumer Electronics Show, when a driver encounters stressful driving conditions such as heavy congestion or major traffic jams, an autopilot system can take over and guide the vehicle with perfect lane discipline at speeds of up to 37mph (60 km/h). Using ultrasonic and radar sensors as well as video cameras, the car can maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front and reduce speed or apply the brake if necessary. It is also aware of blindspots and of distances relevant to crash barriers and highway markings and can even react cooperatively to other cars attempting to change lane or overtake. All of which allows the driver ultimate peace of mind and a chance to relax when those around him or her are becoming more and more stressed.

Parking a car is one thing, but parking a car in a tight space and then managing to exit it, along with the other passengers, babies, strollers and luggage without bumping doors against walls or even other cars is another.
Using the same sensors, the concept Audi RS7 Sportback can not only park itself in any space large enough to accept it, the car can park itself via remote control. Simply stop the car next to the space and get out, then, using a smartphone to connect to the vehicle, order it to park and switch off its ignition. What's more, when it's time to leave, the car can be instructed to autonomously exit the space and pull up alongside the driver and his or her passengers.

When asked how long consumers would have to wait before these features finally make it in to their cars, Audi spokesperson Holly Robinson responded: "From the technical point of view, we are sure that a system as presented in Vegas can be in the market not later than the end of this decade."