Imagine you’re currently on a short flight from Singapore to Malaysia. The plane is cruising along with a pilot at its helm while you are free to do other things like watch a movie, listen to some music, or in this writer’s case, typing out this exact article.
Now imagine adapting this scenario for road cars. A pilot for the road that gets you through those long stretches of the highway while you’re free to do other things. A nice vision of the future, right?
Enter the Audi A7 Piloted Driving technical concept car which selected attendees to the first-ever CES Asia 2015 in Shanghai had the opportunity of experiencing as it navigated its way around the city all on its own.
What is it?
Well, the Audi A7 Piloted Driving is a technical showcase of the Four Ring’s automated driving system which combines various sensors scattered across the car, all working with the newly developed zFAS central driver assistance control unit.
The zFAS unit is small, measuring roughly the size of a mousepad, a far cry from early developments that saw the boot of the A7 being occupied by computers. Speaking to Björn Giesler who is part of the Piloted Driving’s Chassis Development, he says the zFAS system is unique from other automated cars as it is isolated from the internet to prevent any would be hackers from accessing it.
The system is powered by a Nvidia Tegra K1 chipset and receives inputs from the sensors – video cameras, ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors, and a new laser scanner that scans what lies ahead of the A7 every 40 milliseconds, before making the appropriate manoeuvres. Additionally, the sensors work in synergy to support any of the other’s shortcomings.
Does it work?
As a demonstration, several CES Asia 2015 participants were taken on a 15 kilometre route which begins and ends near the venue. Considering the A7 made its way back unscathed with participants feeling utterly amazed and/or impressed, suffice to say it works but up to a certain degree.
Within the city areas of Shanghai where there is a high volume of vehicles and motorcycles jumping in and out (trust us, the driving style is a huge departure from ours), the A7 Piloted Driving would cue the driver to step in and take control.
Out on the highways however, the automated driving car does everything on its own. As seen in the video, Björn Giesler simply activates the system and the car takes over, driving along up to 60 km/h. If it should sense disruptions coming up ahead, it will inform the driver to prepare and ease the control back to a human instead.
Keep in mind that this is still a test car that is undergoing constant upgrades and revisions with an expected system debut on the all-new 2017 Audi A8 in January of that year. Should everything go as planned, it will be the first commercially available car to feature automated driving.
Check out our other coverage of Audi @ CES Asia 2015: