Autonomous cars have been on the books of most automobile manufacturers around the world for a long time. Whether it was the lack of initiative or not seeing the potential of the market, carmakers did not fully embrace the possibility until Google (News - Alert) announced it was developing its own driverless vehicle. Since that announcement, virtually every manufacturer has been fast tracking the concept by integrating different driverless technology components in their vehicle such as self-parking, with the eventual goal of having a completely autonomous car. Audi is one of these companies, and its A7 was the first vehicle testing this technology on Tampa’s Selmon Expressway.
The test was conducted on this section of the Florida highway because in 2012 Gov. Rick Scott signed into law HB 1207, which made Florida one of only three states in which automobile and technology manufacturers will be able to invest in research and design projects for autonomous technology. This includes allowing the companies to test the vehicles on certain segments of Florida highways, and that is what Audi has done with its A7.
Audi has been one of the pioneers of driverless technology, which it highlighted during the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES (News - Alert)) in Las Vegas. During that event it demonstrated what it refers to as "piloted driving" using its adaptive cruise control with stop & go function. Audi active lane assist and side assist, night vision assistant, park assist, camera-based traffic sign recognition, and Audi pre sense.
Audi tested its system on the expressway in Tampa, handling freeway conditions of up to 40 mph. Governor Scott, Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes and select media were given the opportunity to experience the technology. The Traffic Jam Pilot, as the company called it, can be part of its production vehicles within five years if all goes according to plan. As with all R&D, there are unforeseen glitches that could delay the availability of the platform, but with most if not all car companies planning to launch such vehicles in the near future, the days of falling asleep at the wheel are long gone.
The entry of Google in this market has definitely pushed the industry to be more innovative. Google for its part has pushed itself by introducing a vehicle without some of the key features we associate with cars, such as a steering wheel and pedals. The automobile as we know it is vanishing before our eyes, and manufacturers have to take into account all the possibilities this entails when they start designing their cars.
Here’s hoping Google starts manufacturing everything else, if for any other reason but to introduce innovation.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson