Audi has delivered on its promise to send a driverless Audi RS 7 around the Hockenheim Grand Prix track at racing speeds. Although those who tried to view the live stream yesterday were left wanting after the servers crashed, the RS 7 piloted driving concept completed a Hockenheimring lap in just over two minutes.
Although well short of the 1:13:78 lap record set by Kimi Räikkönen in the 2004 German Grand Prix, the two-minute-plus lap time was close to the 2 minute 10 second time predicted by the Audi team.
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The 560 hp (418 kW) car employed specially corrected GPS signals transmitted to the car via Wi-Fi, with redundancy provided by high-frequency radio, while 3D cameras in the car filmed the track and a computer program compared the images against graphical information stored on board. Audi says this allowed the car to orient itself on the track to within centimeters and allow it to drive with high precision and take the optimum driving line.
Audis have been at the forefront of autonomous driving technologies. In 2010 a Stanford University team sendt its Autonomous TTS research car around the 12.42-mile (20 km) Pikes Peak mountain course in 27 minutes, nearing the lap times of expert race car drivers around California's Thunderhill Raceway in 2012 with the same car. And last month, Audi became the first auto manufacturer to receive an autonomous driving permit from the state of California.
Audi expects technologies from its piloted driving concept to make its way into future production vehicles before the end of the decade, taking the form of systems that take control of the car under certain conditions, such as traffic jams or when parking.
Although Audi didn't reveal an exact Hockenheimring lap time or the car's top speed on the run, the commentator in the video below excitedly exclaims the car reached speeds of 220 km/h (137 mph).