Audi has unveiled the late 2017 update to the A8, the company’s largest saloon car, which will be the first car sold with a Level 3 autonomous system onboard.
In a press release, Audi claims that other vendors are selling Level 2 cars, which force drivers to remain focused on the road. The A8 differs in that respect, once drivers activate the self-driving system, they are allowed to take their eyes off the road.
The system will only work on highways when there is traffic, as Audi decides when the driver is allowed to press the button and the max speed is 60 kph (37 mph).
To get the driver back in control, Audi deploys a variety of noises, lights, and vibrations. Visual and audio cues are the first warning, followed by tightening the seatbelt and hitting the brakes. If that fails to draw the attention of the driver, the system will turn on flashers and stop.
A stepping stone to level 5
Audi wants the A8 to be a stepping stone towards full autonomy, which is still a long way off. Even with the compromises on speed, however, the A8 will not be allowed to drive on any roads in Germany, China or the United Kingdom at the present time.
Most countries are still against anything that allows the driver to take their attention off the road. Audi would need to receive approval for the car before selling it with the autonomous system, and even then it might be forced to add additional safety protocols.
The carmaker expects the system to be available in Germany by 2019 and has not given an estimate for other countries. By that time, some suspect, we will have driverless taxis and shuttles on the road, which might make the compromise system look a bit outdated.