DOMA-5006-NewsletterPageGraphics-15-Apr-06Audi Leads Revolution for Hands-Free Driving

Until recently, the idea of self-driving vehicles has vastly lent itself to the realm of science fiction. However, what would have seemed completely absurd only but a decade ago, has officially become a more-than realistic concept.

Self-driving vehicles will be coming to a city near you sooner than you think. Audi is hard at work to transform this science-fiction concept into an everyday reality with the introduction of self-driving, also known as autonomous vehicles, to the general public as early as 2017.

This revolution didn’t happen overnight, though. The development and testing of autonomous vehicles has been quietly in the works for decades. Google’s autonomous vehicles have logged more than 200,000 miles on California roads, and there have been several government-sponsored autonomous car races in the past few years.

Most recently, an autonomous Audi completed a 3,400-mile road trip from San Francisco to New York. Engineers were able to gather close to three terabytes of data that will enable even more enhancements to its autonomous driving system.

Furthermore, automobile safety technology has served as a segue to self-driving vehicles with the introduction of advanced safety features, such as collision prevention, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning systems, drowsy driver alert systems and even adaptive cruise control. Each of these features qualify as autonomous technology.

The Debate

This sort of massive change has sparked a massive debate. Many argue that an autonomous driving system wouldn’t be a tenth as reliable as a real human driver because machines cannot feel, thus they do not know the importance of a human life. Meanwhile, many on the other side of the debate assert that yes, autonomous vehicles will still crash, but it won’t be as often as we currently do on our own.

Presently, automobile accidents account for 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. deaths each year. Autonomous vehicles are expected to eradicate fatalities. “Today, our expectation for airplanes is zero fatalities,” said Charles Reinholtz, chairman of the mechanical and civil engineering department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “We’re hoping to do the same for vehicles.”

The Technicalities

What is the secret to the expected success of Audi’s autonomous driving system? A central driving controller that is no bigger than a standard-sized tablet. The controller is composed of cameras, a radar, Lidar, ultrasound, GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes and several other sensors. “It’s basically a supercomputer on a chip,” said Audi spokesman Bradley Stertz when being interviewed by Design News. “The processing power that we get from that chip is equivalent to what used to be a whole trunk-full of equipment.”

In addition, the autonomous driving system is equipped with technology that allows self-piloted vehicles to continuously learn while they drive. Ultimately, this is important because it allows the autonomous vehicles to adjust and master complex driving situations.

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