2015 audi rs-7
Over the weekend Audi showcased another of their ‘piloted’ self-driving cars, this one a 560 horsepower RS 7. Instead of driving on the road, however, this time Audi had their car racing around the Hockenheimring in Germany during the weekend of the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) season finale. The car was expected to perform a lap in around 2 minutes 10 seconds with a top speed of 149.1 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour), and the car was able to match the company’s predictions, completing a lap in just slightly over two minutes. Although nowhere near the lap record, the result was still impressive.
The car navigates using a combination of specially corrected GPS signals with differential data (sent to the car via WiFi, with a high-frequency radio as backup) and 3D cameras in the car that film the track. The computer compares the images it ‘sees’ with a set of images stored on board, looking for recognizable features, such as building patterns behind the track. This allows the car to position itself on the track to within centimeters (around half an inch).
Accurately determining the position of the car on the asphalt is only part of getting the car around the track; the lap also showcases the piloted driving car’s ability to control itself at the limit. The car is designed to drive a racing line around the track, using full throttle on the straightaways and full braking before the corners. During the lap, the car was expected to reach lateral acceleration numbers of 1.1 g in the corner, and forces over 1.3 g when braking.
This isn’t the first time Audi has shown one of their self-driving cars on a race course. In 2010 a driverless Audi TTS (nicknamed Shelley after former Group B rally driver Michele Mouton) ran the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, before later going on to lap Thunderhill Raceway in California. Though we probably won’t be seeing autonomous cars racing against each other anytime soon, Audi says that displays such as these are of great value for further development of the road cars.
To watch a video of the lap, including some in-car footage of the steering wheel doing it’s thing all by itself, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOYsI1cqUrw