Automotive

Audi's "Jack" autonomous car becomes a kind, courteous driver

Piloted A7 that Audi calls Jack
Piloted A7 that Audi calls Jack
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Piloted A7 that Audi calls Jack
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Piloted A7 that Audi calls Jack

Over the years, Audi's piloted driving fleet has pushed autonomous driving forward with such feats as a Pikes Peak ascent and a Hockenheim lap. Audi's latest piloted driving accomplishment isn't quite so flashy, but it promises to be more important for everyday driving. A piloted A7 research car nicknamed "Jack" has become a smart, courteous defensive driver that should be a pleasure to drive beside, whether you're handling the wheel or rolling in an autonomous car of your own. Audi calls it a "research car with social competence."

Hot laps and hill climbs are nice, but the real future of autonomous driving isn't so much in competition; it's in routine, mundane commuting. So the latest look into Audi's piloted driving program may not have that "world first" sheen, but it's actually more pertinent to what autonomous cars will be doing on a daily basis.

And what they'll be doing if Jack is to serve as a preview is acting like civically responsible adults, and not the road-raging, offensive-minded children that actual adult human drivers sometimes act like. Jack has learned to use its autonomous driving suite to make decisions that demonstrate exceptional roadway decorum while helping efficiency and safety.

For instance, if you intend to merge into Jack's lane, he won't mutter "Hell no" and speed up so that you can't get in, the way an overworked, underpaid human commuter might. Instead, as Audi explains, he will either speed up or slow down to let you in, depending upon which action is deemed most favorable for all road users. More technically, Jack's onboard zFAS controller creates a dynamic vision of real-time road conditions from all the data pulled from the car's onboard sensors and car-to-X communications systems, allowing Jack to immediately analyze the traffic surroundings before acting. So not only is Jack able to be a kind gentleman to you, the driver trying to move over, but he thinks about the entire highway before doing anything too rash.

Much autonomous research has focused on highway driving, which involves fewer speed changes and unpredictable obstacles. Audi is preparing a "first mile" research study with its home city of Ingolstadt, Germany. Tests, which will begin in 2018, will center around the transition from freeway to city driving on the "Ingolstadt-Süd (South)" autobahn exit. New infrastructure will be built with autonomous driving in mind and will include things like new types of pavement and sensors at intersections.

Source: Audi

2 comments
Mel Tisdale
If these autonomous vehicles are ever to succeed, they are going to have to learn to live with the existing fleet until they have all gone to the big breakers' yard in the sky and all remaining vehicles are fully autonomous, or at least capable of being so (cyclists?). Until then thy will need learn how to be courteous. There are loads of situations in normal driving where this applies. In Scotland and numerous other locations there are single track roads with passing places. These vehicles should know where the passing places are and drive accordingly. To do this they need to know the locations of all approaching vehicles and if it is better for all, pull in and wait in a passing place, even if the particular vehicle has yet to appear (It would save a lot of reversing). This same approach is also required on two track roads if an extra wide vehicle is approaching, such as a combine harvester. To do this safely it will be necessary to know where it is safe to pull over onto the adjoining verge (is it hard or soft etc.) It does not take too much thought along these lines to see just how detailed the maps that these vehicles will operate to are going to have to be and also, how essential it is going to be for these vehicles to be equipped with inertial navigation to act as back up to the onboard sat-nav system should it be jammed or loses its signal. Oh hum, the biggest test for these autonomous vehicles is going to be public acceptance, that little thing stopping airliners being made autonomous, despit the fact that their systems are all ready to go. They could plug them in tomorrow and be operating the following day - well, perhaps the day after, no point in rushing things. Another question that needs to be addressed is: should current production models be make 'autonomous ready'? If so, that is going to require the standards to be sef for all interaction between vehicles to be established a.s.a.p. , along with all onboard system parameters so that when the way of operating is established, it will be possible to have an after sales upgrade which involves simply plugging in the various black boxes that comprise the system.
Bob Flint
The real life integration of the autonomous vehicle will mean that "it" will not speed, obey all local, provincial (state) laws as well. It no doubt will be the slowest vehicle on the road, very rarely have I ever seen in my 34 years of driving anyone actually obeying ever every single speed sign, stop sign, red light yield, merge, etc.... These autonomous vehicles are/will be legislated to obey, all human drivers don't therefore maybe the autonomous vehicles should be made to resemble police vehicles, since in most cases that's when we don't tempt fate and roll along peacefully avoiding being caught or stopped. At the very least maybe a big yellow yield sign similar to a slow moving tractor... Even if the "A" cars are slowly accepted, there will be hacks, & modifications, remember we are generally impatient and rules are made to be bent, or broken. The auto industry is constantly spouting the multimillion dollar super cars, even GM with neck snapping acceleration over 700hp for the masses, that compared to an anemic "google buggy" or an adapted SUV with radar, lidar, etc. The cost and "control & Power factor is engrained in our DNA we are hunters, growl, squeal, and burn rubber...