Audi self-driving, self-parking cars revealed
Posted on 22 Jan 2013 at 10:00, by Gareth Halfacree
Audi has released details of its autonomous car projects, and while the technology doesn't quite reach as far as Google's prototype entirely self-driving vehicles it does stand a significantly better chance of appearing in a production model in the near future.
Currently in working prototype form, Audi's autonomous vehicles feature a range of technologies designed to make life easier for the driver. Some build on existing technologies, while others are more novel: an 'autopilot' system designed for use in traffic jams where the speed is below 37 miles per hour provides hands- and feet-free driving, taking control of the vehicle even in temporary lanes while watching out for other vehicles that may move into or out of the lane - always keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
Based on Audi's existing adaptive cruise control and Stop & Go systems, the new autopilot includes lateral guidance powered by two radar sensors tuned to monitor everything up to a distance of 250 metres at an angle of around 35 degrees. A wide-angle video camera monitors the lane markings and keeps an eye out for pedestrians, other vehicles and safety guardrails, while eight ultrasonic monitors keep watch over the front of the vehicle and its corners. Finally, a laser scanner provides a more precise picture of the 80 metres immediately in front of the vehicle at an angle of around 140 degrees. Should any of these systems detect anything anomalous - such as the traffic jam dispersing - the driver is prompted to regain manual control.
The second system provides fully-automated parking. Designed for use in narrow garages or awkward parking spaces, the system allows the driver to exit the vehicle and begin the parking manoeuvre by pressing a button on the keyfob or activating an app on his or her smartphone. Using a range of sensors, the vehicle then drives itself into the parking space - stopping dead should it find an obstacle. Assuming it parks safely, the engine is then stopped, the ignition deactivated and the doors locked. The system also works in reverse, driving out of the space and unlocking its doors at the press of a button.
Audi has confirmed that it is currently trialling its autonomous vehicle technologies in Ingolstadt, Germany, but has yet to suggest a timescale for bringing the systems to production vehicles.
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