Audi announces semi-autonomous car tech for urban traffic

Forget Google and its fully-autonomous pod, the real action is in the race for cars that can almost drive themselves.

Just two days after Cadillac announced that it would add semi-autonomous capability to production cars beginning in 2017, Audi is making a declaration of its own.

The German carmaker will introduce a system that allows cars to drive themselves in stop-and-go urban traffic, Bloomberg reports.

Cars equipped with this tech will be able to accelerate, brake, and steer themselves at speeds up to 37 mph, Audi chief financial officer Axel Strotbek said in a speech at the Frankfurt School of Finance yesterday.

While Audi’s rivals are planning to roll out similar tech in the next few years, Strotbek didn’t say exactly when this new system will become available, only noting that it will appear “very soon.”

Audi’s announcement highlights a growing trend among automakers of introducing autonomous-car technology piecemeal.

Audi-A7-Autonomous-driving

Related: Volvo sets self-driving cars loose on Swedish streets

The Audi tech sounds similar to Cadillac’s “Super Cruise” system, which will allow cars to autonomously navigate highway congestion.

Tesla Motors is also aiming at limited autonomy for the time being, calling its system an “auto pilot.” Nissan hopes to eventually sell a fully-autnomous car, but it short-term plans call for increasing the capability of existing safety systems as stepping stone to that goal.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has already tested a prototype S-Class that can drive itself, but still requires a human presence behind the wheel. It hopes to have a production version ready by 2020.

Given enough time, these systems could eventually morph into full-on robotic drivers. However, with the limits of the technology currently unknown, carmakers appear to be playing it safe and deploying the machines where they are certain robotic drivers will be able to function.

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