These are use cases that we can take out from projects like this. “It’s an evolutionary approach,” said Müller. The US could be the first country where you could have the first piloted functionalities on the road. Where do we have to focus on if we’re building this technology soon? Like traffic jams as I said, or parking in a parking spot in the morning. News:   autonomous vehicles in   urban areas could be up to thirty years away, according to   Audi’s Thomas Müller, the engineer leading the development of the brand’s driverless sports car (+ interview). If every car was intelligent and every car was talking to each other and every car would be… There are two kinds of cars. This is something you need to do at the limit. If you could manage that situation – I think this is one of the biggest challenges. Planning, analysing, positioning –   where am I? Despite the hype about driverless vehicles,   Müller said it would “take 20 to 30 years” before they could co-exist with existing vehicles in cities. And the most important thing is the customer. This is actually something that human beings can do very well because you learn it. You need to take the customer on that journey with you. First of all we have our pre-development activities that we want to take to serious production. You have to make it recognise what is a street, what is not a street, and gravel and mud. Earlier this year, Google was forced to alter   the design for its fleet of autonomous cars after California changed its road rules, requiring all vehicles to have a steering wheel. “Driving pleasure issues – this is something that we focus on. On a gravel road I don’t reckon that you’ll have lights. Anna Winston: What about off-road driving? We have this kind of car that just takes you from A to B – which is unemotional. “It’s not going to be that next Monday everything is there and is working, because technology needs to be developed, regulation needs to be developed, infrastructure needs to be developed.”
“And the most important thing is the customer. We have a radio control system taking care of the car. My wife wouldn’t get in a car that doesn’t have anything. And you have a lot of safety technology on board –   two power supply systems, two breaking systems, redundancies. Having the whole system of cars in this mixed scenario of intelligent and less intelligent cars working to increase the efficiency of the traffic – this would take some years. Thomas Müller:   A lot of activity is happening in Europe, happening in the US, some starting in China. Audi’s concept RS 7 driverless car”You have to make it recognise what is a street, what is not a street, and gravel and mud,” said   Müller. Anna Winston: So there isn’t a plan to go fully autonomous as a business strategy? But it’s still very regional, which makes it more difficult. But the area that you use today for parking – this, I think, is actually the biggest problem. We want to support him in situations where he doesn’t have this pleasure of driving. Cities are reducing the parking areas and so we need to find a way to pack more together. What’s the logic in that? Thomas Müller: We focus on two things. How many different types of technology are you applying? All of them doing 45-60 miles an hour. Thomas Müller:   We had of course some pre-developing activities working on some of these technologies. We’re not following a strategy of having – some people call it robotaxi – this car driving empty through the city looking for customers. “People driving old cars in the middle of cars that are more intelligent and highly autonomous would be a mess,” said Müller, who is Audi’s head of driver assistance systems. It’s not because you’re born with that knowledge. That’s quite fast. People buy the cars because they look good. like airplanes. Most of them don’t even push the brake, as they’re shocked and they know they’re probably about to have a really hard accident. If he wants to have the assistant helping him he will have the assistant helping him. So you use the engine, the steering system, the breaking. If you have algorithms that can learn as they go – robots or cars or whatever – then you could get a lot of what human beings have and then eventually, some day, gravel roads will also be possible. Anna Winston: California is changing its regulations to insist that all vehicles have steering wheels and brake pedals. It’s difficult to say when it’s going to happen. She doesn’t trust it. We want to have our cars be something very emotional. There are millions of possibilities to comb through and there is some intelligence behind that – assuming what is the best way to go through and at which speed. But legal variations around the world and a lack of trust from customers are still barriers in   bringing   driverless cars onto the market, according to Müller. Anna Winston: How long would it take to make a car that could drive autonomously on a real road? You learn by driving what is a gravel road, where the borderline of a road is, and this is something that in the technical environment – self-learning machines – is still at the beginning. This is not our strategic goal,” said   Müller. The car brand is also working with architects to identify areas where driverless technologies can have an impact on urban planning. Cities will take many many years still to be able to do that. Which includes, of course, the streets, but it also includes the parking areas. “The logic in that is to try to understand the urban mobility of tomorrow. They can just start working on their laws, and they’re doing that already. Thomas Müller: If you’re talking about cities, this is very complex. He needs to have pleasure and say ‘Yeah, that’s me, this is part of my body’. Not at all. But if you have simpler use cases like a traffic jam on a highway or parking, I think this could very well happen in this decade. And they didn’t sign the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic   from 1968, so they don’t have to wait for this to be changed. Then he makes his test drive. Thomas Müller: They wanted to put a fleet of Google cars on the road without anything, and the [DMV] said ‘no forget it’. And I think the US has a huge potential – think about the highways. That’s the first reason someone gets into a dealership. And to find out where we can generate some value,” said   Müller. The cars use a combination of military-grade GPS, images captured by an array of cameras, which   the car compares to a bank of images previously captured on the same stretch of road, and   a “path finding” algorithm   to help plot   the best route for each lap. I think it’s feasible that it will happen in this decade. Then you put in a localisation system –   because the car needs to know where it is –   which is basically done by GPS and cameras. That would be much faster. It’s not going to be that next Monday everything is there and is working, because technology needs to be developed, regulation needs to be developed, infrastructure needs to be developed. Today you can test, but you cannot sell this technology. Anna Winston: And you’re working with architects and designers outside of Audi. This is not our strategic goal. She doesn’t trust it. The biggest barrier in the end is that you have a mixture of non-intelligent and more intelligent cars. You drive one lap on the left side of the lane; one on the right side. And on top of that comes driver assistance systems, piloted driving, which are the functionalities where we say we want to help the driver – to avoid accidents. It’s an evolutionary approach. It’s a kind of path planner. Actually you take a normal RS 7. Thomas Müller: The logic in that is try to understand the urban mobility of tomorrow. If you could just drop your car at the entrance of a parking place and it just gets in and you pack all the cars together without any streets in-between, you would reduce the area which I think is a great thing.

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