By now you’ve probably had some exposure to the driverless technology phenomenon – even if it’s that taxi in Total Recall. There have been mutterings about an Apple car, Elon Musk’s Tesla and tech giant Baidu’s Connected Drive.
Staggeringly, the history of experimenting with autonomous vehicles goes back nearly 100 years. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise really. Planes have been practically flying themselves for years – and self-sufficient automobiles have been a reality since the 1980s. However, there has been a seismic gear shift on this journey in recent years and the 2010s have given us a future that is tangible. There isn’t a car manufacturer who hasn’t added ‘autonomous’ to their vocabulary – but few are as actively indulging the notion as Audi.
The Audi RS7 piloted driving concept‘s technology is very real and very now – a multitude of sensors (from GPS, radar and ultrasound to laser scanner and 3D camera), big clever computers to process all that information at light-speed and actuator motors that control the beast.
As for that crash half a mile ahead or that snowstorm 15 minutes down the road, Audi AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG’s recent €2.8 billion acquisition of Nokia’s digital mapping business HERE provides the maps that have moved beyond GPS. ‘Big data’ provides a real time digital version of the world by drawing data from over 80,000 sources and billions of probe points daily. With the on-board data from millions of vehicles, mobile devices and social media, it provides head-scratching stuff as it hurtles you around a racetrack – driverless.
Read the author’s experience of test driving the Audi RS7 in the Catalan countryside at 200km/h (125mph) with nothing but “bags and bags of technology” here. Warning: there is mention of “squeaky bum time”.