Audi Engineer Outlines Next Steps to Autonomous Vehicles

Audi's concept vehicle doing a traffic jam pilot. It is a current generation A7. Source: Audi

Audi’s concept vehicle doing a traffic jam pilot. It is a current generation A7. Source: Audi

What is next on the path to fully automated vehicles? Kaushik Raghu, senior staff engineer at Audi, said the answer is traffic jam piloting.

“Eighty-six percent of people in this country choose to use private transport,” he said during a recent conference in Detroit. “A feature like this would bring a high level of convenience to a large set of the population. People spend 5.5 billion hours in traffic jams a year. The amount of fuel spent on traffic jams is 2.9 billion gallons. We think it is the kind of system that would allow drivers to engage in other activities.”

After the development of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), automated driving is the next logical step, according to Raghu.

He pointed to study results from Boston Consulting, which found that as soon as five years down the road, there is a lot of interest by people in purchasing vehicles with partially autonomous features.

In ten years, 44 percent of those surveyed said they would be likely or very likely to buy a fully autonomous vehicle. Lower insurance premiums is one of the key factors driving this decision, according to Boston Consulting. Other reasons include increased safety, better mileage and tax breaks, among others.

After traffic jam piloting is fully realized, Raghu said the company will focus on highway piloting, which is similar to the traffic jam concept but works at much higher speeds.

“And then we will work on garage pilot, which is an evolution of normal parking pilot. And eventually we think city pilot will come up after that,” he said.

The laser sensor is the newest addition to semi-autonomous vehicles, which allows a vehicle to perceive depth, Raghu pointed out.

“This is a challenge for some of the other types of cameras,” he said. “All the sensors have their pros and cons and that’s why you need to use a little bit of all of them. … We are not depending on infrastructure changes [such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication and communication with the environment]. We are depending on our sensors to drive autonomous vehicles,” Raghu said.

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