The new Audi A8 is the most technologically advanced car ever. Since I learned that the A8 is the first ever production car to achieve level 3 autonomy - the car is able to make decisions by itself - I have been doing some research.
The amount of technology that’s crammed into this car is very impressive so I thought a summary roll call of the tech involved would be in order for those that are curious.
By the driver seat are three display consoles. The first is a 1920 x 720 pixel, 12.3” TFT retina display in front of the driver. This Virtual Cockpit can be viewed through two different modes, the classic mode and the Infotainment mode, presenting the driver with four key areas of information: driving info, media and on-demand info, communication and navigation.
Audi's Virtual Cockpit
Two further screens sit in the centre console of the car, the upper 10.1” screen being the MMI panel, or multi media panel. When not in use this blends almost invisibly into the cars instrument panel. This is a curved TFT screen boasting a 1540 x 720 pixel resolution. The MMI screen uses haptic feedback so that when a finger touches the glass display, the user must press gently and will feel a mechanical pulsation along with a click sound to confirm that the function has been successfully selected.
The lower 8.6” screen provides the air-conditioning and comfort functions as well as text entry via handwriting recognition.
Text Recognition might not be so useful in a right hand drive car.
The A8 also has a natural language voice control system that understands many expressions from everyday language and can react to commands and questions. You can ask context based questions like “How fast can I drive to Mum’s house” or “I want to go home”. The voice control system is connected with media sources, the air-con system, the telephone and selected Audi connect services.
The car will have 4G LTE wireless data connection embedded, the fourth-generation mobile communications standard. This enables the transfer of large volumes of data, such as music and high-definition films, as well as short ping times for interactive applications such as games. Passengers in the new Audi A8 will be able run different applications at the same time on their mobile devices. One of them can participate in a conference call, for example, while another watches a video.
Data on traffic signs and information on dangers are two innovative Car-to-X services which make use of digital intelligence. Next year, the On-Street Parking service will be added where the driver is shown the possibility of finding a parking space in a particular street.
Moving onto the level 3 autonomy, the A8 offers the Traffic Jam Pilot that will take control of the car when in slow moving traffic up to speeds of 37mph or 60kph where a physical barrier separates two carriageways. The driverless technology isn’t ready to tackle oncoming traffic just yet. The car will speed up, slow down and brake while this mode is activated. No lane changing either but this is predicted to come. Strict rules apply to the driver who must remain in the driver seat with torso pointing forward. Infrared sensors and camera study the eye movement and head motions to assure the alertness of the driver should the pilot need to hand back control of the car.
Triple display panels
On the hand back, the driver is expected to take over within 10 seconds in response to a chime and a pulsating red reminder at the edges of the Virtual Cockpit display. Beyond that, the request gets more audibly and visibly urgent as the car turns down the audio system and jerks the seatbelts in a not at all subtle way. Go no-hands past the 20-second mark and the car will follow an escalation strategy, starting to decelerate, activating its hazard lights, and slowing down within the lane of travel, unlocking the doors and calling for emergency assistance as it rolls to a stop.
All that sensing and decision making is done on board, with a suite of hardware that includes 12 ultrasonic sensors, four 360 degree cameras, one single-lens camera, four midrange radar sensors, one long-range radar sensor and a forward laser scanner - kit the Mars Rover would be proud of.
Audi AI pilot and AI garage pilot are two more semi-autonomous features that allow the car to park itself. Audi AI pilot facilitates autonomous parallel parking and can also prep the car for leaving a tight parking space. When the car has finished maneuvering, the driver simply needs to take control and swing out when ready knowing that they will not collide with the car parked in front.
Audi leading the path in technological evolution
The Garage Pilot will slot your car into a garage space. Particularly useful when space is tight and you are restricted from climbing from the driver or passenger seat once parked. With the use of the myAudi app, you can simply hop out of the car beforehand and then request the car to park while you are not in it. It will also pull out for you when requested via the app.
You can stop any of these autonomous maneuvers by simply lifting your finger from the Audi AI button either in the car or on the smart phone app. The A8 will be able to handle parallel parking and parking in bays forwards or backward while the myAudi app lets you see a live stream from the vehicles 360 degree cameras on your phone. While in the car, you can use the central display panel to view a scrollable 3D view of digitally rendered car with live obstacles around the car. This can be in panoramic or flat view.
Comfort and safety
Another nice feature is the elevated entry and exit system. As you approach the car, the suspension will lift up all around to allow easier entry and exit from the car. A bit overkill you might think, but still it’s a neat feature, especially if you have older relatives. The car deploys pitch control so that wherever you are the car attempts to stay level. This is also used while driving so that the car keeps level during breaking and acceleration. The active suspension is also deployed in Audi pre-sense mode. If the car detects pot holes or bumps in the road, it will adjust the suspension accordingly to minimise the effect on the ride. This smooth's out the drive experience quite considerably.
The car is constantly on the watch for potential collisions in your blind spots. If you pull out from a blind junction for example, if the car detects an oncoming object before you see it, the brakes will be deployed to avoid a collision. If you try to open your door while a cyclist is passing by, the opening of the door will be delayed. If the car detects an oncoming vehicle about to collide with the side of the vehicle, the suspension on the collision side is jacked up 8cms within a second to allow the impact to be taken by the stronger underside of the car.
Lots to see
As you can see, there are many many features of the car that make it technologically rich. I could go on but I wanted to mention the main ones. If you are interested there are videos available that also demonstrate the technological features in this car. See my previous post in the Fully Automated tribe.
Some further ones worth mentioning are;
Dynamic all wheel steering - low speed maneuverability – high speed stability, Wheel rim protection, Night vision assist, Distance warning, Lane guidance, Adaptive cruise control, Automatic boot open and shut, Feather touch buttons for air vents – nice touch, Foot massager for back passenger, 2 rear displays / media tablet to control TV, music, radio etc.
Bang & Olufsen tweaker in 23 speaker and 1,920 watt setup
In the back there is a centre console which is a removable tablet style remote and phone. This operates the ambient lights, blinds to create a theatre like environment and climate control.
Also included are Matrix reading lights , Seat controls (the buttons look like seats) to adjust all seats including passenger front seat forwards. Seat massaging functions & full mains power socket. The list goes on.
The myAudi app also provides a myriad of ways to interact with the car itself: lock and unlock doors, heat or cool the car before you get in and get information like oil levels and your car maintenance schedule. You are now able to transfer your entire calendar or individual destinations to the MMI. This means your navigation for the day is ready to go when you get in the car. For the road-tripper in you, you might also highlight points of interest and stream music by Napster.
The myAudi smart App
In case of theft the Audi call centre can locate your A8 and disable it as well as attract attention by flashing the lights and honking the horn to help police find it. And lets hope they do with all that treasury of tech on board! Phew!