You can’t pop down to your local car dealer and buy yourself a fully autonomous car.
Not yet, at least. But we’re close, closer than many might imagine.
Of course, we already have the likes of Tesla’s Autopilot system, and Mercedes has only recently revealed its 2016 E-Class, complete with Drive Pilot, which allows the car to drive itself – steering and everything – on motorways and the like. But neither system is fully autonomous. You can’t tell the car where you want to go and cede all control. The regulations alone don’t exist yet for that.
But car manufacturers are working towards that goal, and by 2020, many think we might have the first cars that achieve that goal.
And one of the manufacturers leading the way in autonomous car development is Audi. You may remember the RS7 autonomous prototype. Well, Audi have been hard at work on those systems, and one of the results is an autonomous A8 L W12, dubbed Piloted Driving.
From the outside, it’s pretty much indistinguishable from a regular Audi A8. Indeed, even inside it’s virtually indistinguishable. Yet, this being an autonomous car, the one factor that really gives away its abilities is the fact that it will quite happily drive about with no driver in sight.
And that’s what Audi told the car to do at this month’s Berlinale Palast film festival.
Armed with high-fidelity maps of Berlin, the A8 picked up actor Daniel Brühl and his girlfriend from their
The car managed just fine, and unlike the previous RS7 prototype, it didn’t drive flat out all the way there. It acted in much the way a traditional chauffeur would – a gentle, smooth approach was the order of the day.
(And as entrances go, turning up in a car driving itself has to be one of the best).
Of course, when we’ll see this technology in productions cars is still uncertain, but there’s talk that Audi’s next generation A8 – due by 2018, we think – will feature highly advanced autonomous capabilities.
So CEOs and movie stars of the world: don’t fire your chauffeur just yet.
But in a few years, well, there may be a lot of taxi drivers and chauffeurs looking for new lines of work…