Audi will use next week’s 2017 Frankfurt auto show to highlight its roadmap for self-driving car technology.
The automaker will do so with a separate vehicle highlighting each of the three levels of self-driving car classification leading up to and including Level 5, the ultimate goal where a car can handle all situations on its own and thus can travel without a human on-board.
The cars will include the Level 3 A8 sedan and two concepts. The two concepts will include a Level 4 SUV and a Level 5 car in the full-size segment.
The most advanced self-driving cars at present are only Level 2 capable. Level 2 cars can operate on their own in specific conditions but require constant monitoring by the driver in case control needs to be taken back.
The A8 hitting showrooms next year will be Level 3 capable. Level 3 cars can operate on their own in specific conditions but can provide the driver with an early warning prior to control needing to be taken back. That warning buffer, about 10 seconds in the A8, means a driver could safely check emails, read a book or watch a movie while the car is in self-driving mode. In the A8, the specific conditions will be traffic jams, as well as long sections of uninterrupted roads where there is a physical barrier separating the two directions of traffic.
Audi’s Level 4 self-driving technology will be previewed in an SUV based on the e-tron Sportback concept unveiled in April at the 2017 Shanghai auto show. A Level 4 self-driving car can safely operate in specific conditions on its own. Should the car approach roads outside of the specific conditions, the driver will be requested to take over well in advance. If the driver fails to take over, the car will be able to safely bring itself to a stop. In a Level 4 car, it will be possible in some situations for the driver to fall asleep behind the wheel.
Audi’s Level 5 self-driving technology will be previewed in a full-size car. A Level 5 car is capable of driving on its own in all situations, thus it doesn’t require a steering wheel or pedals. To this end, Audi’s Level 5 concept will be more of a lounge or office on wheels. Audi says it will combine many new features in the area of connectivity, communication and operation.
Audi will also have some attractions at the Frankfurt auto show for those of us that still enjoy driving. These are expected to include a rear-wheel-drive version of the R8 supercar, a new RS 4 Avant, and possibly a new RS 5 Sportback.
We’ll be bringing you live coverage from the show once the doors open on September 12, and you can stay up to date on it all by frequenting our dedicated hub.