Audi becomes the first car company to claim to have productionized Level 3 capability, which allows hands-off capability but requires the driver to take back control at any time.
The car can drive itself at speeds up to 60 kph (37 mph) in a setting Audi calls Traffic Jam Pilot.
"This will completely change our mobility," Audi sales boss Dietmar Voggenreiter said at A8's unveiling.
Right now, Level 3 autonomous driving is not allowed in Germany, but Audi CEO Rupert Stadler expects that to change next year.
The Traffic Jam Pilot will only be allowed on highways where oncoming traffic is separated. The car's sensors and the satellite navigation will confirm that conditions are right, after which the driver will activate the function. A series of audio and visual alerts will tell the driver when to retake control, said Mirko Reuter, Audi's head of automated driving said. If the driver doesn't respond to the alerts the vehicle "will become increasingly annoying," he said.
Audi's flagship sedan, which goes on sale in Europe this autumn while U.S. and Chinese sales will start in spring 2018, will include all the hardware needed to achieve Level 3 automation, if a customer purchases the option. They system, however will remain at Level 2 until homologation standards and a legislative framework has been approved in various markets. The timeframe for these approvals is uncertain.
“We are in unchartered territory here,” Peter Mertens, Audi’s head of r&d, told Automotive News Europe Tuesday.
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