Google isn't the only one developing a self-driving car. At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Audi is showing off their autonomous vehicle technology and their vision for the future.
The technology for the car to drive itself is here now, but due to government regulatory issues and equipment availability, Audi says it'll be awhile before we can all relax and let the car do the driving. The carmaker is hesitant when pushed for a specific timeline, but it says we can expect self-driving cars (or Piloted Driving in Audi speak) within the next 10 years. When they do hit the road, Audi says they see their Piloted Driving as an optional feature for driving in traffic and parking (the least enjoyable times behind the wheel), but drivers could take over control when they want.
This is a slightly different approach than Toyota took at CES with its autonomous Lexus LS. Toyota presented the technology-laden luxury car as enhancing safety, rather than replacing the driver.
Audi takes it a step further to enable the car to literally drive itself. Just prior to the electronics show, Audi was issued a license to test autonomous vehicles in Nevada on public roads. (Google was the first company eight months ago to apply and receive the license, but Audi is the first automaker to obtain the permit.)
At CES, Audi is showcasing a wide array of electronics features, with the common thread being the ability to connect systems and sensors to create new functionality. This can be readily seen in the company's active cruise control, lane assist, blind-spot detection, park assist, and night vision technologies. Ultimately, these and other existing technologies enable a significant level of autonomy.
By enabling these technologies to work together, the bulk of what is needed to create the self-driving car is already here. Audi says that in addition to regulatory and liability issues, the biggest obstacles to implementing all of the technology now are the large antennas and trunkful of equipment necessary to make the whole thing work. But they're on the case. Welcome to the future.