In November 2011 the CEO of Audi, Rupert Sadler, announced that their brand’s series of driverless cars will be on the UK’s roads in the next two years. The announcement was made during his speech at the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s economic summit in Berlin.
During this speech he placed specific emphasis on the early release of these cars, especially in specified public areas. In support of this he pointed to the positive experiences which the company was having with tests they were running in the United States. However Audi are not the only company whose hat is in the ring, Google received a lot of media attention during the opening half of 2014 with their prototype driverless car.
The Google model has already accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles in US road tests. However these tests have not been without their shortcomings, the Google car has been widely criticised in two main areas. These are its inability to park and also, more worryingly, its poor ability to navigate in challenging weather conditions such as snow and heavy rain.
Audi’s response released in October 2014, which has received the pet name “Bobby”, has already turned heads due to its high performance levels. Booby lapped a Formula 1 track in roughly 2 minutes and 10 seconds, hitting a top speed of 150 miles per hour. The German manufacturer have named their self-driving system “piloted driving”, saying they take a revolutionary approach to its self-driving engineering. This approach makes use of existing technology in a number of areas, most notably lasers, cameras and sensors.
Over the coming months the competition for the first series of driverless cars looks set to increase. Last year both Daimler and BMW announced their intention to produce driverless cars and are actively seeking permits to test their vehicles on public roads.
For now, however, Audi appears to be leading the field. In January the company demonstrated Bobby’s ability to navigate hundreds of miles of motorway without any human interference. However the company’s system currently lacks the intelligence required to drive unassisted through towns and cities. This is due to the fact that roads in these areas are of a far more complex nature.
Whilst an increasing number of companies are demonstrating the ability of their driverless cars to perform well in a series of controlled environments, we are still a long way from getting behind the wheel of one of these cars ourselves.
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