Audi will be the first to test its automated driving technology on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa, Florida—which recently was designated as an automated driving and connected car test bed—using an Audi A7 equipped to handle piloted driving functions on freeway conditions up to 40 mph (64 km/h).
Audi believes this initial version of piloted driving—Traffic Jam Pilot—could be available to consumers within five years. As Audi outlined this type of piloted driving functionality at CES in 2013 (earlier post), the system is based on the functionality of Audi adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go, extended by adding the component of lateral guidance.
If the system detects a traffic jam situation (with physical separation of the opposing lane or lanes) at speeds below its 40 mph threshold, the driver can activate the function. The system then takes over the steering; it also accelerates and brakes autonomously. The Audi system for piloted driving in traffic jams continuously assesses the status of the car and its entire surroundings. The car behaves exactly like Audi ACC stop & go in accelerating and braking; it also reacts cooperatively to cars moving into or out of the lane.
When piloted driving reaches its system limits are reached, such as when the traffic jam dissolves or the end of a divided road is reached, it prompts the driver to take back control.
If the driver does not take back control within a few seconds of being prompted, light braking and a more intensive warning are triggered. If the driver fails to react within an additional five seconds, the system establishes a minimal-risk state. The car is braked to a stop and the hazard warning lights are activated.
As described at CES in 2014, the piloted traffic jam system uses a radar system to monitor the area in front of the car in a 35-degree field of view and at a distance of up to 250 meters (820). A video camera with a wide angle of aperture detects the lane markings as well as pedestrians and objects, such as other vehicles and guard rails. Up to twelve ultrasonic sensors are used to monitor the space near the car.
A laser scanner is now being used for the first time. It provides highly precise data at a range of up to 80 meters (262.47 ft). Its laser diode emits nearly 100,000 infrared light pulses per second that are invisible to the human eye.
The sensor scans a field of view of 140 degrees with a resolution of 0.25 degrees over four different levels. The control unit computes a highly detailed surroundings profile from the light reflections. This profile represents other vehicles as well as guard rails. The key advantages of the laser scanner are:
Because of the large angle of aperture, cars entering the lane are detected very early.
The laser diode means that it is fully functional in the dark.
Its measurement method enables it to detect any objects, even those with a solid pattern or with no visible structure.
As an assistance function, piloted driving in a traffic jam enables the driver to devote his or her attention, within certain limits, to other activities while the system is operating. If the vehicle reaches the limits of the function, for instance the traffic jam disperses, the driver is prompted to take over control.
Audi has also said it is developing piloted driving for parking at curbside and in garages.
In 2012, Governor Scott signed into law HB 1207, which allowed the testing of autonomous vehicles in the state, and made Florida one of only three states (Nevada and California being the other two) where automobile and technology manufacturers could invest, with certainty, in research and design projects for autonomous technology. Because Florida created an environment that allows for the testing and development of autonomous technology, companies such as Audi have decided to bring research and development efforts to the state.
Governor Scott has cited this kind of R&D work as a catalyst for attracting leading engineers, scientists, and students to Florida as they define the future of transportation. The state also is hopeful that this research will unlock innovations that will bring safety advances to Florida drivers sooner.
To highlight the role that the State of Florida is playing in the development of automated driving and connected cars, Audi will hold a press conference with Governor Scott on Monday, 28 July. Immediately after the press conference, Governor Scott, Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes and select media will be offered the opportunity to experience the technology first hand in the driver’s seat of the Audi A7.