While Mercedes was busy unveiling the F 015 autonomous car concept at Consumer Electronics Show, Audi took a different route of demonstrating what its selfing driving cars were capable of. Jack the Audi A7 drove itself for over 500 miles at highway speeds on a trip from San Francisco to CES in Las Vegas in a tour de autonomous force.
Though far from a fully autonomous vehicles, Audi’s self-driving car can navigate highways at speeds up to 70 MPH, braking, passing, and generally driving like a well-mannered motorist. In other words, the exact opposite of how you’d expect an Audi driver to act. Audi is one of the first automakers to get a license for its autonomous vehicles, and it is sinking a lot of resources into securing a place at the table of self-driving carmakers. The system also can’t handle the lower speeds and general chaos of city driving yet, and thus hands control back over to the driver after a sufficient number of alarms letting you know hey, it’s time to drive buddy.
Of course an Audi test driver was along for the ride the whole time, and the Jack the Audi made several stops to pick up members of the press and the public to give them a taste of our autonomous automobile future. And that future isn’t too far off according to Audi, as this concept uses off-the-shelf technology. Of course it’s one thing to be able to build an autonomous car, and another thing to sell it, as these autonomous systems can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of the cost of the car. Some features though, like the Adaptive Cruise Control and side-assist radars, are already in production on higher-end vehicles, though others are still too expensive even for Audis.
One day though we may look back on Jack as a pioneer of autonomous automobiles. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even have a place in a museum.