It was just last Fall that the State of California issued its first autonomous driving permit to Audi and now the automaker is putting their cars to the test on a road trip to CES. California issued the permit giving permission for Audi to test its autonomous cars on public roads with the stipulation that each vehicle have a $5 million bond and that any kind of accident be reported to the DMV.
The big test is a 550-mile road trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas, Nevada for this week’s Consumer Electronics Show which is drawing the tech obsessed for a week of new product announcements featuring all the latest gadgetry. It won’t be Audi’s test drivers behind the wheel, but a bunch of auto journalists. You can breath easy if you live along the route because there will at least be a trained driver in the passenger seat at all times.
Everyone taking part in the drive got special training at the Arizona Proving Grounds so that they’d each be ready for their 100-mile stint behind the wheel of Jack. Yes, they gave the car a name. At highway speeds of up to 70 MPH, Jack will drive himself down the road without needing any input from a human driver, but that changes once the car gets into city traffic.
Although Jack can manage highway traffic by slowing down or speeding up and even handle changing lanes, he does need a human in charge when he leaves the highway. Drivers will be warned of their need to take control through a combination of LEDs at the base of the windshield, signals in the driver information display, a Central Status Indicator (CSI), and an auditory warning. If all this goes ignored, Jack will slow down, pull over, and turn on his hazards.
The rest of the time, Jack uses a variety of sensors to safely drive along the road. The long-range sensors used for the Adaptive Cruise Control and Side Assist sensors work with two mid-range radar sensors at the front and rear to give a complete 360-degree view. Laser scanners at the front and rear add additional details that help identify both static and moving objects around the car. Lastly, there’s a 3D video camera providing a wide-angle front view with four smaller cameras to provide close-up details.
Audi says much of this technology is nearly production ready, with the 3D video camera already making an appearance on the new Audi Q7. The latest and greatest from Audi will all be featured as a part of its “Next Chapter” presentation at CES January 6th through 9th.