2011 Audi Urban ConceptEnlarge Photo
Audi has promised to launch a fully self-driving car by 2021.
The target date is a popular one as it’s close enough to be practical but at the same time far enough that should the target be missed few are likely to remember. Other automakers with a similar target include BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volvo.
Audi’s self-driving car will be a small city car produced in limited numbers and most likely for trial use only rather than for direct sale to the public. Audi first hinted at a small city car with the unveiling of the Urban concept car at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show.
Audi Q7 Piloted Driving concept, 2017 Consumer Electronics ShowEnlarge Photo
Audi has been tasked with developing self-driving technology for the Volkswagen Group. In March, it established the standalone unit Autonomous Intelligent Driving which is focused on developing the technology, dubbed Piloted Driving by the automaker.
We won’t have to wait until 2021 to see an Audi with self-driving capability, however. In June, Audi will unveil a redesigned A8 sedan. It will be the first model to offer Level 3 self-driving capability, meaning that in certain situations the car will be able to handle itself, providing the driver with a hands-off, eyes-off experience. Outside of those situations, the driver will be forced to take over.
Audi’s self-driving car due in 2021 will likely be a Level 4 car. This means it will be able to handle itself in certain situations, but outside of those situations the car will be able to bring itself safely to a stop should the driver fail to respond. This is the key difference to a Level 3 self-driving car. A Level 5 self-driving car is the ultimate goal. This is where a car can handle itself in all situations, thus requiring no driver on board.