Audi was a pioneer in the area of autonomous car technology but the automaker has been overtaken by rival Mercedes-Benz in the race to offer cars that can drive themselves. That won’t be the case for long as Audi’s next-generation A8, due on the market in 2017, as a 2018 model, will be able to drive itself in certain situations.

The information was revealed to Motoring by Stefan Moser, head of product and technology communications at Audi. Moser explained that autonomous cars will drive much “better than human beings" as they can’t be distracted.

Moser went on to reveal that Audi would like to be one of the first to offer a car that can be driven all the time in autonomous mode but said the technology will likely have to wait for legislation to catch up. In Germany, for example, cars are currently allowed to drive in autonomous mode for only 10 seconds at a time.

Audi recently showcased an RS 7 concept car that could lap a race track at race car speeds completely on its own. To do this it relied on highly accurate GPS data as well as a special 3D camera. However, Moser said Audi’s autonomous technology designed for the production world will be even more complex. He said there will be much more sensors as well as laser guidance systems that can see through fog and snow, as the system must be capable of working in all conditions.  

Audi will preview the styling of its next-gen A8 with a concept at next month's 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. The production version will be first shown in 2016 before going on sale the following year. The autonomous systems debuting on the car are likely to be a traffic jam assistant and highway autopilot.


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