On Monday, a self-driving Audi A7 prototype named “Jack” left California for CES in Las Vegas. With some human help, it arrived there yesterday after driving more than 550 miles.
Journalists drove the car in stints of up to 100 miles, with an Audi representative in the passenger’s seat. While the prototype isn’t equipped to drive itself in certain situations, it was an ambitious test of autonomous-car tech on public roads.
The A7 uses an array of sensors to orient itself, and can operate autonomously at speeds up to 70 mph. It can also initiate and complete lane changes and passing maneuvers without any human involvement.
A test like this robotic trip probably couldn’t have happened in many other places. Both California and Nevada explicitly allow the testing of self-driving cars on public roads, and route allowed for plenty of highway driving to keep the A7 in its element.
The car’s systems still can’t navigate dense traffic. They provide audible and visual warnings to the driver when a switchover is required, and the car can pull itself over if the person behind the wheel ignores them.
Audi says the test provided “actionable data” that will be used in further autonomous-car research.
Meanwhile, some of “Jack’s” tech is already available, or will be soon.
The car uses an upgraded version of adaptive cruise control, which is already a common feature on production cars. A wide-angle 3D video camera used to scan surrounding traffic will also be offered on the 2016 Q7 SUV.