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Audi tests self-piloted vehicle to bring attention to the future of cars

July 29, 2014

Audi A7 Audi A7


German automaker Audi is demonstrating its new autonomous vehicle on a designated testing road in Tampa, FL.

Florida was chosen as the site because state law allows autonomous vehicles to be tested on roads. The law allows Audi to move ahead with the creation of this vehicle by permitting test runs on actual freeways, which also direct publicity upon the brand and the self-piloted car.

“Florida law has been specifically developed to allow tests of autonomous vehicles,” said Brad Stertz, corporate communications manager at Audi of America, Herndon, VA.

“The law is needed to understand how drivers behave in terms of this system,” he said. “Florida, specifically Tampa's Selmon Expressway, has been designated as a test bed for autonomous vehicles.”

Legally endorsed advancements
On July 28, Audi led a test drive on Selmon Expressway that included Florida’s Governor Rick Scott. The Audi A7 was the car at the event and is being wired to pilot itself on freeway conditions up to 40 mph.

The autonomous driving is called Traffic Jam Pilot and takes control of the car in slow driving conditions on freeways. This feature is meant to minimize collisions in bumper-to-bumper traffic and relieve the driver of stress.


Audi A7 is gaining self-piloting features

Governor Scott's trip was documented through a Go Pro camera. He sat in the passenger seat as a test driver is seen holding his hands in the air as the car continues to cruise down the highway.

The driver radios other cars around them to pull in front of them to demonstrate the vehicle's reaction to surrounding objects.


Driver relaxing as car continues moving

Florida’s HB 1207 law allows the testing of autonomous vehicles in the state. Florida is one of three states that legally permits this type of experimentation. The Selmon Expressway has been designated as the technology test bed.

The law was enacted to encourage automakers to develop a technology that can bring safety advances to Florida drivers.

Audi's A7 brings advances in technology that can reduce the amount of freeway accidents.

Technological opportunities

Other luxury automakers are also developing autonomous technology.

For instance, German automaker Mercedes-Benz is working to ensure the reliability of its autonomous vehicles, having already exhibited the technology needed to navigate streets without human intervention.

The automotive brand will have to overcome numerous hurdles before an autonomous vehicle becomes available to the public, but keeping consumers updated will generate interest in the project. Similarly, Mercedes-Benz’ full-throttle approach to autonomy will likely spur other brands to increase their research into similar designs (see story).

Staying active with the newest technology is vital for brands to attract consumers. Other automakers have enacted new technologies into their car models.

Jaguar Land Rover worked to reduce distractions for drivers with virtual enhancements to windshields.

The technology is still in its preliminary stages, but will likely allow drivers to focus more on the road instead of down at gadgets. As vehicles become equipped with more technology, automakers will have to be mindful of the difficulties of multitasking when driving (see story).

Also, luxury automakers began to pair up with technology giant Apple to make their automobiles’ user interfaces easier for iPhone owners to operate and more engaging.

Italy’s Ferrari and Germany’s Mercedes-Benz were early adopters of Apple’s new CarPlay infotainment system that syncs up dashboard and wheel controls to the consumer’s Apple device. Until other automakers incorporate this system, Apple’s technology was going to give these two brands an advantage in the luxury market due to the proliferation of iPhone owners (see story).

Audi's public demonstration will likely generate interest in the advancement of autonomous technology.

“The demonstration was done to show the functions of a piloted car,” Mr. Stertz said.

“It was the first time an autonomous car was shown on the expressway and we were able to give Governor Rick Scott the experience to drive the car and experience what the law is allowing,” he said.

“The feature takes all the driving functions up to 40mph on a freeway or highway and in traffic conditions it takes a lot of stress off the driver and lets the car do the maneuvering in the lower speed.”

Final Take
Nancy Buckley, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York