Audi's steps towards autonomous driving have including world first hill climbs and hot laps, along with less glamorous ventures like research projects focusing on the future of commuting. It has now enlisted the help of computer hardware company Nvidia to take its efforts to another level, harnessing artificial intelligence to deliver autonomous vehicles by the year 2020.
Audi announced the new partnership with NVIDIA at CES on Wednesday, but the pair have worked together in the past on projects such as Audi's virtual cockpit and MMI system. Now, Audi plans to tap into Nvidia's know-how when it comes to artificial intelligence and deep learning to tackle certain technological challenges and deliver a highly autonomous vehicle sooner.
To offer a little taste of what this might look like, Audi is showing off a concept car at CES this week that uses artificial intelligence to find its way around a course. The stated aim of the collaboration is to enable "skilled handling of real-road complexities," and to this end, the concept vehicle learns from the road and driver as it travels, and is built to handle unexpected complications. This includes curveballs like roadblocks, construction, weather changes and even mid-demonstration course modifications.
Audi also used the event to announce plans to introduce a Level 3 automated vehicle this year, which it says will be a world first. In general terms, that means a car capable of "conditional automation," where the autonomous systems monitor the environment rather than the human inside doing so.
In Audi's terms, this means a next-gen A8 with a feature dubbed Traffic Jam Pilot. The company says this will allow drivers to hand off steering, throttle and braking control to the vehicle at speeds up to 35 mph (56 km/h), depending on the conditions. There's no word on a release date, only that it will arrive later in 2017.
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